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Keywords:

  • behavior disorders;
  • descriptive observations;
  • functional analysis;
  • matching law

Prior researchers have evaluated the efficacy of using the matching law to describe naturally occurring behavior—environment interactions. However, spurious matching could be obtained if the response and environmental event were correlated, even if the event did not reinforce the response. To assess the likelihood of obtaining spurious matching when relating attention and problem behavior, we evaluated the problem behavior of 3 participants for whom attention did not serve as a reinforcer for problem behavior in a functional analysis. Both the simple and generalized matching equations were used to examine matching relations extracted from descriptive observations that were conducted in the participants' classrooms. The results of aggregated matching analyses showed that the proportional rate of responding approximately matched the proportional rate of contiguous adult attention. Matching analyses conducted for all participants showed correlations between attention and problem behavior. These results demonstrate that spurious matching can be obtained, and they highlight the role of functional analyses in the analysis of naturally occurring matching relations.