Using the Matching Law in Real Life

Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

“All life is a whole bunch of…concurrent operant schedules.”

The quote above is taken from a talk by Matt Linder, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and Executive Vice President of Brett DiNovi & Associates.  In his video, he discusses the Matching Law and its application to real life.

For the uninitiated, The Matching Law is a mathematical formula originating from the work of Hernstein and others from the basic animal laboratory.  The law seeks to describe how your responses are allocated across a variety of choices, each with a different schedule of reinforcement.  The Law predicts that your behavior should generally follow the proportions of reinforcement provided by different response options, while also describing conditions in which behavior might deviate in its proportional allocations via “undermatching” and “overmatching.”

In order to help us understand how this Law applies to our everyday lives, Linder gave a hypothetical example of a student in a classroom who displays disruptive behavior.  Now, imagine that one teacher attends to the student’s behavior 100% of the time while another attends only 50% of the time.  All other factors being equal, you will likely see that the child’s disruptive behavior is twice as prevalent with the former teacher as opposed to the latter.

As another example, Linder discussed his personal use of GPS apps, such as Google Maps. He noted “there’s certain circumstances and times throughout the day, or places that you’re going, that you might rely, or use, or allocate your responses to, Google Maps.”  He told of a time, years ago when GPS was relatively unreliable, that he would avoid using it because “the early GPSs go really confused around water” and weren’t trustworthy.

But GPS has come a long way in the past decade, and his use of GPS is contextually driven, based on the relative reinforcement available for driving with or without the app.  He noted that certain times of day tend to occasion his use of GPS more than others.  For example, when going home during rush hour, he is more likely to use it because of the additional reinforcement available for avoiding traffic and arriving home faster.  However, at other times of day with ligher traffic, the differential reinforcement provided by the use of GPS might be minimal.  As a result, he doesn’t use it as much.

To see the rest of Matt’s talk, be sure to check out the full video and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let them know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, bSciStudios and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Using the Matching Law in Real Life"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.