When Faced With A Choice Where The Only Options Are The First Choice Or Nothing, It’s Called A?
Answer: Hobson’s Choice
Whether or not you knew the formal name for the scenario was “Hobson’s Choice”, it’s likely you’ve been faced with one before. A Hobson’s choice is any situation where there is an illusion of choice, but ultimately, the only free will decision is to accept the offered option or to walk away. Many a parent over the years has presented their child with such a choice at the dinner table, as in “You can eat your meatloaf or you can go to bed hungry.” or a thousand variations of such ultimatums.
The name of the choice is said to have originated with the 17th century English stable owner Thomas Hobson. He operated a large livery in Cambridge, England that housed around forty horses. Knowing that patrons would always pick what they felt was the best horse from among the available options (which would lead to delays as well as certain horses becoming overworked), he adopted a very simple policy. You accepted the horse in the first occupied stall closest to the door or you got no horse at all.
The stable was popular and although Hobson made no effort to attach his name to his take-it-or-leave-it attitude, patrons of his stable began referring to situations where they had a single choice or none at all as a Hobson’s choice and the name stuck.