Richard Herrnstein

Richard Herrnstein

Richard J. Herrnstein (May 20, 1930 – September 13, 1994) was an American researcher in animal learning in the Skinnerian tradition. He was one of the founders of quantitative analysis of behavior.

His major research finding as an experimental psychologist is called "matching law" -- the tendency of animals to allocate their choices in direct proportion to the rewards they provide. To illustrate the phenomenon, imagine that there are two sources of reward, one of which is twice as rich as the other. Herrnstein found in his research that animals often chose at twice the frequency the alternative that was seemingly twice as valuable. This is known as "matching," both in quantitative analysis of behavior and mathematical psychology". He also developed melioration theory with William Vaughan, Jr.

He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of psychology at Harvard University and worked with B. F. Skinner in the Harvard pigeon lab, where he did research on choice behavior and behavioral economics. In 1965, and with Edwin Boring, Herrnstein authored 'A Source Book in the History of Psychology'.

Herrnstein's research focused first on natural concepts and human intelligence in the 1970s, and peaked in prolificacy with the publication of his and Charles Murray's controversial best-selling book, The Bell Curve. Herrnstein died of peritoneal mesothelioma shortly before the book was released.

Read more about Richard HerrnsteinThe Matching Law, Selected Bibliography

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