The Behavior Analyst

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 95–109 | Cite as

Matching Theory in Natural Human Environments

  • J. J. McDowell
Article

Abstract

Matching theory is a mathematical account of behavior, many aspects of which have been confirmed in laboratory experiments with nonhuman and human subjects. The theory asserts that behavior is distributed across concurrently available response alternatives in the same proportion that reinforcement is distributed across those alternatives. The theory also asserts that behavior on a single response alternative is a function not only of reinforcement contingent on that behavior, but also of reinforcement contingent on other behaviors and of reinforcement delivered independently of behavior. These assertions constitute important advances in our understanding of the effects of reinforcement on behavior. Evidence from the applied literature suggests that matching theory holds not only in laboratory environments, but also in natural human environments. In addition, the theory has important therapeutic implications. For example, it suggests four new intervention strategies, and it can be used to improve treatment planning and management. Research on matching theory illustrates the progression from laboratory experimentation with nonhuman subjects to therapeutic applications in natural human environments.

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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. J. McDowell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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