Chapter 25: Token Economies
Token: conditioned reinforcers that can be accumulated and exchanged for backup reinforcers.
Token Economy: A behavioural program where an individual can earn tokens for performing desirable
behaviours and can cash in the tokens for various backup reinforcers.
2 major advantages:
1. They can be given immediately after a desired behaviour and cashed in later for a backup reinforcer
Useful when there is a long delay b/w target response and backup reinforcer (occurs when
reinforcing after the target b occurs is impractical or impossible.
2. Makes reinforcement easy when a group of individuals have different motivational states.
Tokens paired w/ diff backup reinforcers are generalized conditioned reinforcers. So, they don’t
depend on a specific motivating operation for their strength.
Initial steps in setting up a Token Economy
Deciding on the target behaviours
Determined by (a) the type of individuals involved, (b) the short- and long-range objectives to be
accomplished, and (c) specific behavioural problems that interfere with achieving those objectives.
Clearly define them to participants so they know what behaviours are expected and so you can reliably
The more similar a group is, the easier it is to standardize the rules concerning expected behaviours
But, Have specific reinforcement rules for individuals or, if they’re too different, assign them to
special treatment groups.
Get this before starting the token economy
Compare data with baseline data to determine program’s effectiveness.
Selecting backup reinforcers
There’s a variety of backup reinforcers to choose since you’re not limited to those that can be delivered
immediately after the desired response (token economies bridges long delays b/w target behaviour and
Avoid unethical backup reinforcers- don’t plan a program that might deprive individuals of something
that legally and morally belongs to them (e.g. food, water)
Choose dispensing method after choosing your backup reinforcer (a box in a classroom or a store- keep
inventory of purchases)
Selecting the type of token to use
Takes on any form but should be attractive, lightweight, portable, durable, easy to handle, and not easily
Automatic dispensers of backup reinforcement should always be operational and have enough tokens
Have needed accessories for handling and storing tokens (bags, boxes, purses)
Identifying available help
Help is needed in larger token economies (e.g. psychiatric facilities)
People already assigned to work with certain individuals (nurses, TA)
Behaviourally advanced individuals w/in institutions (older students to help young)
Members of the token economy itself
With time, members assume more responsibility in achieving goals (e.g. some peers become promoted
and gain authority to administer and remove tokens for peers’ performances)
Decide how to reinforce helpers’ behaviour (approval or further promotions)
Choosing the locations
No specific location. Some are better than others depending on the economy type Specific implementation procedures
Following procedures must be chosen and implemented prior to- and during the token economy program
Keeping data: choose type of data sheets, who will record data, and when to record.