Everyday, I break down a confusing ABA term and put it in plain English! If you are studying for your BCBA exam, explaining ABA to parents, or are a student, there is no reason to be so confused over ABA terms. “Behavioral language” can be very confusing, however these concepts don’t have to be. Today we will discuss the matching law.

According to Cooper, Heron and Heward, matching law is, “The allocation of responses to choices available on concurrent schedules of reinforcement; rates of responding across choices are distributed in proportions that match the rates of reinforcement received from each choice alternative.”

Matching law simply states that behavior goes where reinforcement flows. Matching law is related to concurrent schedules of reinforcement which is where there are two different behaviors with different schedules of reinforcement; meaning that a person has a choice between two or more activities that have different levels of reinforcement.  Matching law states that you will do things in proportion to the amount of reinforcement that you receive from it. 

So, if I were to offer you playing with the iPad for 5 minutes or reading a book for 2 minutes, you will choose the thing that provides you the most reinforcement. 

If both items are reinforcing, you will choose the items in proportion to that level of reinforcement. For example, if you like both hamburgers and hotdogs but you like hotdogs twice as much as hamburgers, if you go to 6 barbecues you are offered either a hamburger or a hot dog, you will choose the hot dog 4 times and the hamburger 2 times. 


Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied Behavior Analysis (3rd Edition). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education.å