Friday, November 19, 2010

What is a Hobson's Choice?

A Hobson's choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; "take it or leave it".

The phrase is said to originate from Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner at Cambridge, England. To rotate the use of his horses he offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door or taking none at all.

He had an extensive stable of some 40 horses and therefore there appeared to be a wide choice when in fact there was simply the choice described above.

An ultimatum game is a form of Hobson's choice.

Hobson's choice is different from:

* a choice between or among limited options
* Blackmail and extortion: the choice between paying money (or some non-monetary good or deed) and suffering an unpleasant action
* False dilemma: only two choices are considered, when in fact there are others
* Catch-22: a logical paradox arising from a situation in which an individual needs something that can only be acquired by not being in that very situation
* Morton's fork, and a double bind: choices yield equivalent, often undesirable, results.

No comments: