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Author Notes:

Address correspondence to either author at, Dept. of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, e-mail: psyjjmd@emory.edu, e-mail: mlcaron@emory.edu

We are grateful to the Oregon Social Learning Center for access to the high quality data set from the Oregon Youth Study that was analyzed in this study. We benefitted from discussions with John Berg, Saule Kulubekova, and Andrei Popa, and we thank Andrei Popa for his comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank Tom Critchfield, Tony Nevin, and two anonymous reviewers for their careful consideration of our submitted manuscript, and for their helpful guidance in revising it.



  • generalized matching law
  • Herrnstein's hyperbola
  • modern matching theory
  • human social behavior
  • verbal behavior
  • juvenile delinquency

Matching in an Undisturbed Natural Human Environment


Journal Title:

Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior


Volume 93, Number 3


, Pages 415-433

Type of Work:

Article | Post-print: After Peer Review


Data from the Oregon Youth Study, consisting of the verbal behavior of 210 adolescent boys determined to be at risk for delinquency (targets) and 210 of their friends (peers), were analyzed for their conformance to the complete family of matching theory equations in light of recent findings from the basic science, and using recently developed analytic techniques. Equations of the classic and modern theories of matching were fitted as ensembles to rates and time allocations of the boys' rule-break and normative talk obtained from conversations between pairs of boys. The verbal behavior of each boy in a conversation was presumed to be reinforced by positive social responses from the other boy. Consistent with recent findings from the basic science, the boys' verbal behavior was accurately described by the modern but not the classic theory of matching. These findings also add support to the assertion that basic principles and processes that are known to govern behavior in laboratory experiments also govern human social behavior in undisturbed natural environments.

Copyright information:

Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Inc.

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