What Is a Token Economy

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What is a Token Economy?
Since the beginning of human history there has been some form of token economy in place. From the use of giving food to giving coins or currency to those who perform a task for someone. Money is the most common current form of a token economy used in everyday life. Individuals get paid in money for completing a project or simple tasks by someone else. People are taught at a very early age how to earn money or rewards. According to Rodriguez, Montesinos, & Preciado (2005), the first therapeutic use of a token economy has been credited to Avendano y Carderera in 1859. Carderera stated that a token could be used to reward the good behavior of children (Rodriguez, Montesinos, & Preciado, 2005). Today, there are some parents who give allowances for their children doing chores around the home and or for good behaviors, which is type of token economy. Children who earn an allowance use the money earned to buy what they can afford at the store. The Token Economy

A token economy, is a type of secondary reinforcement where an individual earns tokens for performing targeted behaviors (Wallin, 2004), such as completing tasks or behaving in desired ways (Educate Autism, 2011). According to Karen Plumley (2010), one of the most effective classroom strategy used for students, especially those with a disability, is the use of a token economy. The token economy is used as behavioral modification through positive reinforcement that has been derived from the basic principal of operant conditioning and the work of B.F. Skinner (KidsMakingChange.com, 2008). It is a method of strengthening a wanted or desired behavior, or increasing its frequency (Educate Autism, 2011). The primary goal or purpose of the token economy is to increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors, mainly to teach appropriate behaviors and social skills that are used in the individual’s natural environment (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2011). Other goals of using a token economy is to increase the ability of an individual to delay gratification, increase someone’s sense of time, lessen satiation by increasing the number of responses necessary to obtain a token, and a variety of reinforcers can be used (Wallin, 2004). According to Plumley (2010), the token economy is used to deter undesirable behaviors, achieve academic goals, and reward positive changes for those with autism. The token economy has also been used for individuals diagnosed with developmental or learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or other behavioral disorders. In addition, token economy have been used in regular educational classrooms, college, group homes, military divisions, nursing homes, even within addiction treatment programs (Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2011). A token economy can involve one individual or a whole classroom of students. When the teacher observes the class engaging in one of the targeted behaviors, she delivers a class token, the token can be a number on the board, a colored square on a chart, etc. (Gongola & Sweeney, 2011). Requirements of a Token Economy

According to Wikipedia (2010), there are three basic requirements for a token economy to be effective. The first basic requirement is to immediately reinforce an individual after they have performed a target behavior (Tarbox, Ghezzi, & Wilson, 2006; Wikipedia, 2011) and as often as the behavior takes place (Tarbox, Ghezzi, & Wilson, 2006). The longer an individual has to wait for a reward or the reinforcer, the less effective the token will be. Rewarding an individual with a social reinforcer is the second basic requirement of a token economy. After giving a token reinforce for the target behavior the individual performs, the addition of a social reinforcement may help the individual maintain what’s been learned. A social reinforce can be a verbal comment, such as "Excellent work," or "Great job", or...
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