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Ian McEwan and Restricted Choice

Imagine my surprise at seeing the principle of restricted choice laid out extremely nicely as a vignette in Ian McEwan's novel "The Sweet Tooth":

A jealous husband follows his wife and her lover to a hotel where he sees them vanish around the corridor. He wants to catch them in flagrante, so he waits a little bit and then prepares to break down the door. But there are three rooms: 401, 402 and 403. Behind one of them is his cheating wife, but the odds of picking the right one are only 1 in 3. He waits to see if he can hear any sounds, but he can hear nothing from any of the rooms. As he is debating which door to choose, he sees two housekeepers approaching. "Let's work on one of the two empty rooms," one maid tells another. Thinking quickly, the husband positions himself in front of 401. Now, the maid's choice is restricted -- seeing the guest blocking her way into 401, she will choose to work on either 402 or 403, whichever is empty. She opens the door to 403, and our hero knowing that his odds have increased to 2 in 3 now, breaks down the door to 402. His mathematical savvy is rewarded by the dubious prize of catching his wife in bed with another man.


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