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A token economy is a system of behavior modification based on the principles of operant conditioning. Contingency management systems are often employed by those who practice applied behavior analysis. It is one approach to a contingency management program. Specifically, the original proposal for such a system emphasized reinforcing positive behavior by awarding "tokens" for meeting positive behavioral goals. The first therapeutic use of a token system was by Avendano y Carderera in 1859, who described a "ticket" for rewarding good behavior in children.[1] The system as popularized in a year-long study conducted by Teodoro Ayllon in Florida was primarily geared towards changing adolescent behavior. Ayllon's study included only adolescent males.

Ayllon's tokens themselves were not reinforcers; tokens were accumulated and "spent" in order to obtain a reinforcer. "Patients earn tokens, which they can exchange for privileges, such as time watching television or walks on the hospital grounds, by completing assigned duties (such as making their beds) or even just by engaging in appropriate conversations with others" (Nolen-Hoeksema's Abnormal Psychology, p.409). Early during the program, a participant would be required to spend all of his or her tokens daily to emphasize the reinforcement activity early, and as time passed and success was made, participants would be allowed (or required) to accumulate their tokens over the course of longer time periods. This, as a variable-rate scheduling system, helped prevent extinction of the behavior after the program's termination.

Proceeding[edit | edit source]

The following must be defined:

  1. Desired behavior(Transparency)
  2. A large number of rewards
  3. What is a token
  4. How are tokens allocated
  5. How are the token earnings changing while approaching the goals
  6. How many tokens will be earned achieving the desired behavior
  7. How many tokens are necessary to get rewards (or maybe to do be allowed to do something). Earning and exchange of tokens have to be in a well-balanced proportion.

If the desired behavior is achieved, the token program must be faded out.

Advantages of token economy[edit | edit source]

  • tokens are flexible
  • tokens can be used for several needs and therefore saturation is improbable
  • there is no delay giving tokens after the desired behavior has been shown
  • it does not matter who gives the tokens (an automat is also possible)
  • mostly the token economy is well-regulated thus it is easy for therapists to decide whether they have to give a token or not

Requirements of token economy[edit | edit source]

  • it is very important to observe the rules (nobody must give them awards otherwise the token economy will be corrupted)
  • 10% - 20% of clients do not respond to token economies

See also[edit | edit source]

Token economy systems have been tried in a number of situations including:

Issues with token economies[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References & Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  1. Matson JL, Boisjoli JA (2008). The token economy for children with intellectual disability and/or autism: a review. Res Dev Disabil.

Key texts[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Kazdin A E 1977, The Token Economy: A Review and Evaluation New York: Plenum Press

Papers[edit | edit source]

  • Allen D.J. & Magaro P.A. (1971). Measures of change in token-economy programs. Behav Res Ther. Nov;9(4):311–318.
  • Atthowe J M 1973, Token economies come of age, Behavior Therapy 4: 646-54
  • Bassett J.E. & Blanchard E.B. (1977). The effect of the absence of close supervision on the use of response cost in a prison token economy. J Appl Behav Anal. 10(3):375–379.
  • Breyer, Norman L. & Allen, George J. (1975). Effects of implementing a token economy on teacher attending behavior. J Appl Behav Anal. 8(4):373–380.
  • Burg M.M., Reid D.H., Lattimore J. (1979). Use of a self-recording and supervision program to change institutional staff behavior. J Appl Behav Anal. 12(3):363–375.
  • Elliott P A, Barlow F, Hooper A and Kingerlee P E 1979, Maintaining patients improvements in a token economy, Behaviour Research and Therapy 17: 355-67
  • Fawcett, Stephen B., Mathews, R Mark., & Fletcher, R Kay. (1980). Some promising dimensions for behavioral community technology. J Appl Behav Anal. 13(3):505–518.Fall;
  • Fullerton D.T., Cayner J.J., & McLaughlin-Reidel T. (1978). Results of a token economy. Arch Gen Psychiatry. Dec;35(12):1451–1453.
  • Greenberg D J, Scott S B, Pisa A and Friesen D D 1975 Beyond the token economy: A comparison of two contingency programs. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 43: 498-503
  • Hersen M 1976, Token economies in institutional settings: Historical. political, deprivation, ethical and generalization issues, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 162: 206-11
  • Hollingsworth R and Forest J P 1975, Community adjustment of released token economy patients, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 6: 271-4
  • Karraker, R.J. (1977). Self versus teacher selected reinforcers in a token economy. Except Child. Apr;43(7):454–455.
  • Kazdin A E 1972, Non-responsiveness of patients to token economies. Behavior Research and Therapy 10: 417-18
  • Kazdin A E 1973, The failure of some patients to respond to token programs, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 4:7-14
  • Kazdin A E 1975a, Recent advances in token economy research. In M Hersen, R M Eisler and P Miller (eds), progress in Behavior Modification Vol.l, New York: Academic Press
  • Kazdin A. E. (1982)The token economy: a decade later. J Appl Behav Anal. 1982 Fall; 15(3): 431–445. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1982.15-431. Full text
  • Kazdin, Alan E., Bootzin, & Richard R. (1972). The token economy: an evaluative review. J Appl Behav Anal. 5(3):343–372. Full text
  • Kowalski P A, Daley G D and Gripe R F, Token economy: Who responds how'?, Behaviour Research and Therapy 14: 372-4
  • Levine F M and Fasnacht G 1974, Token rewards may lead to token learning, American Psychologist 29: 816-20
  • Maley R F, Feldman G L and Ruskin R S 1973, Evaluation of patient improvement in a token economy treatment program. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 82: 141-4
  • McCreadie R.G., Main C.J., & Dunlop R.A. (1978). Token economy, pimozide and chronic schizophrenia. Br J Psychiatry. Aug;133:179–181.
  • McReynolds WT, Coleman J. (1972). Token economy: patient and staff changes. Behav Res Ther.10(1):29–34.
  • Mishara B.L. (1078). Geriatric patients who improve in token economy and general milieu treatment programs: a multivariate analysis. J Consult Clin Psychol. Dec;46(6):1340–1348.
  • Milby J B. Pendergrass P E and Clarke C J 1975. Token economy versus control ward: A comparison of staff and patient attitudes toward ward environment. Behavior Therapy 6:22-9
  • O'Brien F and Azrin H H 1972, Symptom reduction by functional displacement in a token economy: A case study. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 3: 205-7
  • Pesky A S. Black O, Gray A, Hartie A and Seymour 1976. The .Token Economy in the National Health Service: Possibilities and Limitations, Acta Psychiatrica .Scandinavica 53: 258-711
  • Reppucci N.D. & Saunders J.T. (1973). Social psychology of behavior modification. Problems of implementation in natural settings. Am Psychol. 1974 Sep;29(9):649–660.
  • Rezin V A, Elliott P A and Paschalis P 1983, Nurse-patient interaction in a token economy. Behavioural Psychotherapy II: 225-34
  • Shean G D and Zeidberg Z 1971, Token reinforcement therapy: A comparison of matched groups, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 2: 95-105
  • Suchotliff L, Greaves S, Stecker H and Berke R 1970. Critical variables in a token economy, Proceedings of the 78th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association 5: 517-18
  • Trudel G. Boisvert J, Maruca F and Leroux P 1974. Unprogrammed reinforcement of patients' behaviors in wards with and without token economy, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 5: 147-9
  • Wexler, David B. Token and taboo: behavior modification, token economies, and the law. Calif Law Rev. Jan;61(1):81–109.
  • Woods P A, Higson P J and Tannahill M M 1984 Token economy programmes with chronic psychotic patients: The importance of direct measurement and objective evaluation for long-term, maintenance, Behaviour Research and Therapy 22: 41-51
  • Zeldow P.B. (1976). Some antitherapeutic effects of the token economy: a case in point. Psychiatry. Nov;39(4):318–324.

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