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.