Chapter 22: A Token Economy
•Some conditioned reinforcers, such as praise are quite brief
•The stimulus is gone almost as soon as it is presented.
•Conditioned reinforcers of the latter type are called tokens.
•A program in which a group of individuals can earn tokens for a variety of
desirable behaviors, and can exchange tokens earned for backup reinforcers, is
called a token economy.
•Two major advantages to using token reinforcers. First they can be given
immediately after a desirable behavior occurs and cashed in at a later time for a
•Thus, they can be used to “bridge” long delays between the target response and
the backup reinforcers, which is especially important when it is impractical or
impossible to deliver the backup reinforcer immediately after the behavior.
• Second, tokens that are paired with many different backup reinforcers are
generalized conditioned reinforcers and therefore do not depend on a specific
motivating operation for their strength.
•This makes it easier to administer consistent and effective reinforcers when
dealing with a group of individuals who may be in different motivational states.
•Token economies have been used in psychiatric wards, in institution and
classrooms for person with development disabilities in classroom for children and
teenagers with a attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), homes for
predelinquents , in prisons, military, in wards for the treatment of person with
drugs and etc. (look at pg 324 for more)
•Techniques used in token economies have been extended in various community
settings to decrease littering, increase recycling of wastes, increase energy
conservation, increase use of mass transportation, and increase self help behavior
in people who are disadvantaged by the economic system.
Initial Steps in Setting up a Token Economy
Deciding on the Target Behavior
•The target behaviors will be determined largely by the type of individuals with
whom you are working , by the short ranges and long range objective you
wish to accomplish with those individuals, and by specific behavioral
problems you are encountering that interfere with the realization of those
•Advanced target behavior might be “correctly completing problems in a
•The more homogeneous the group with which you are dealing, the easier it is
to standardize the rules concerning which specific responses will be reinforced
with what specific number of tokens.
•Baseline date on the specific target behaviors should be obtained before
initiating a token economy.
Selecting Backup Reinforcers
•A token system will generally increase the variety of practical reinforcers that
you can use, because they need not be limited to those that can be delivered
immediately following a desired response.
•Take extreme caution to avoid the serious ethical problems that can arise.
•Never plan a program that might involve depriving individuals of something
that legally and morally belongs to them.
•After establishing what your backup reinforcers are going to be and how you
are going to obtain them, you should next consider the general method of
Selecting the Type of Tokens to Use
•Tokens can take on any of the forms that money has assumed. These include
personal “checks” entries in a “bank book” marks on a chart on the wall or in
notebooks carried by clients, stickers, stars or stamps pasted in booklets- all
these and numerous other possibilities may suit the needs of your particular
token economy, depending mainly on t he type of client involved.
•Tokens should be attractive, lightweight, portable, durable, easy to handle and
not easily counterfeited.
Specific Implementation Procedures
The Reinforcing Agent
•It is important to decide who is going to administer reinforcement and for
•In addition, care should be taken to ensure that tokens are always delivered in
a positive and conspicuous manner immediately following a desired response.
•Client should be told (at least in the initial stages) why he or she is receiving
Number of Frequency of Token To Pay
•There are several important consideration concerning the amount of tokens to
give for a particular behavior
•One consideration is the stage of the economy, that is , how accustomed the
clients are to receiving tokens.
•Stainback and colleagues (1973) recommended that from 25 to 75 tokens per
child is not excessive on the first day of a token economy in a classroom.
Initial steps in setting up a token economy. Taking baselines www. notesolution. com: baseline date on the specific target behaviors should be obtained before initiating a token economy. Selecting the type of tokens to use: tokens can take on any of the forms that money has assumed. It is important to decide who is going to administer reinforcement and for what behaviors. Managing the backup reinforcers: how frequently backup reinforcers will be available to be purchased (that is, how frequently store time should be scheduled. In the beginning, the frequency should probably be quite high, then decreased gradually. It is also necessary to decide how many tokens each backup reinforcer will cost. In addition to the monetary cost, which is the most obvious consideration in assigning token values to backup reinforcers, two other factors should be considered: one is supply and demand. Possible punishment contingencies: the use of tokens provides the possibilities of using fines a punishment for inappropriate behavior.