Token economy programmes (TEP’s) are mostly used in prisons and community-based projects to encourage pro-social behaviour, but in some cases they are used in treating eating disorders. Based on the principles of operant conditioning, they involve imposing a system of rewards that can be gained if a desired behaviour is performed. The programme enables staff to shape and modify a patients behaviour to what society redeems as appropriate and safe. The management draws up a list of appropriate behaviours, targets and goals, if the patient complies; they receive a token known as the secondary reinforcer. The token can then be exchanged for a reward known as the primary reinforcer, which is negotiated with the patient as this is important as the reward is only effective if it is wanted. TEP is used to assist patients in controlling and changing their behaviour and attitude towards food as well as assisting them in gaining a healthy weight.
The TEP’s appear to be effective as the results of the Okatoma study indicates that most of the participants increased their Body Mass Index (BMI) due to in-take of oral solutions and an incentive system where tokens could be exchanged for desired rewards. Also, BMI increased the temporal point of 1 to 6months after discharge. In addition, research from animals confirms the reliability of operant conditioning principles. This can be somewhat generalised to humans in a sense that we do share some of the same genes and characteristics to animals, therefore to some extent these findings can be generalised to humans. However, we cannot really generalise these findings to humans as the results of operant conditioning being used on animals may not be displayed when operant conditioning is used on humans. Also, animals do not share 100% of our genes and the social factors us humans face may not be the same for the animals.
There is a problem transferring the programme outside the institutions as anorexics can become dependent on...
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