What Is Matching Law in ABA Therapy?

One of the key principles of ABA therapy is the matching law, which is used to understand and modify behavior in individuals with ASD.

reuben kesherim
Published By Ruben Kesherim
June 22, 2023

What Is Matching Law in ABA Therapy?

What is the Matching Law?

The matching law is a principle of behavior analysis that states that the relative rates of responding to two or more available options will match the relative rates of reinforcement for those options.

What is the Matching Law?

In other words, if two options are available and one is consistently reinforced more than the other, an individual will tend to choose the option that is more frequently reinforced.

The matching law was first described by psychologist Richard Herrnstein in the 1960s.

Herrnstein conducted experiments with pigeons and found that the birds would distribute their behavior between two response options in proportion to the relative rates of reinforcement for those options.

How is the Matching Law Used in ABA Therapy?

In ABA therapy, the matching law is used to understand and modify behavior in individuals with ASD. ABA therapists use reinforcement to increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors.

For example, if a child with ASD is learning to communicate using words, the therapist might reinforce the child's use of words by providing praise or a small reward. Over time, the child will learn that using words is a desirable behavior and will be more likely to use words in the future.

The matching law is also used to determine the most effective reinforcement schedule for a particular behavior. ABA therapists may use different reinforcement schedules, such as continuous reinforcement or intermittent reinforcement, depending on the behavior being targeted.

Limitations of the Matching Law

While the matching law is a useful tool in ABA therapy, it has some limitations.

For example, the matching law assumes that individuals have complete information about the reinforcement available for each behavior. In reality, individuals may not have complete information and may make choices based on incomplete information.

Additionally, the matching law does not take into account other factors that may influence behavior, such as social context or individual preferences. Therefore, ABA therapists must use the matching law in conjunction with other principles of behavior analysis to effectively modify behavior in individuals with ASD.

Examples of the Matching Law in Action

The matching law has been observed in a variety of settings, including animal behavior, human decision making, and consumer behavior.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, researchers found that the matching law applied to food choices made by individuals with intellectual disabilities. The participants were more likely to choose foods that had been reinforced more frequently than other options.

Another example of the matching law at work is seen in addiction treatment. Addiction treatment programs often use contingency management principles based on the matching law to encourage abstinence from substance abuse. Patients are given rewards for drug-free urine tests or for attending therapy sessions regularly.

Over time, patients learn that abstaining from substance use is a desirable behavior and are more likely to continue with their recovery efforts.

In education settings, teachers can also use the matching law to improve student performance. By providing reinforcement for desired behaviors such as completing homework or participating in class discussions, students learn that these behaviors are desirable and will be more likely to engage in them.

Overall, the matching law is a powerful tool that can be used across a wide range of settings to modify behavior and increase desirable outcomes.

Why is the Matching Law Important?

The matching law is an essential principle in ABA therapy because it helps therapists to understand how reinforcement can be used to modify behavior.

By understanding the relative rates of reinforcement for different behaviors, ABA therapists can determine which behaviors are most likely to occur and design interventions that promote positive outcomes.

Moreover, the matching law has practical applications beyond ABA therapy. It is used in fields such as economics, animal behavior, and consumer behavior to explain how individuals allocate their resources or make choices between competing options.

Understanding the matching law can also help individuals make better decisions in their personal lives.

For example, if someone is trying to quit smoking or lose weight, they can use the principles of the matching law to identify behaviors that are reinforced by positive outcomes and modify their behavior accordingly.

In summary, the matching law is important because it provides a framework for understanding how reinforcement affects behavior. By applying this principle in various settings, individuals can make more informed decisions and achieve better outcomes.

Conclusion

The matching law is a principle of behavior analysis that is used to understand and modify behavior in individuals with ASD.

ABA therapists use the matching law to reinforce desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors. While the matching law has some limitations, it is a useful tool in ABA therapy and has been shown to be effective in treating individuals with ASD.