Book Definition:

An operant technique applied to groups, such as classrooms or mental hospital wards, involving the distribution of "tokens" or other indicators of reinforcement on desired behaviors. The tokens can later be exchanged for privileges, food, or other reinforcers.

Quite Simply...


  • Behavior is rewarded with secondary reinforcers that can be turned in for something like food or privileges.
  • A token economy is a system of behavior modification based on the principles of operant conditioning. It is often used by people who practice applied behavior analysis (ABA).
  • A token economy rewards good deeds with items that can be used to trade for a desirable item later on.
  • A token economy is a therapeutic system where individuals are given a fake form of currency that can be exchanged for "Good things in life" as a reward for good behaviors that are trying to be taught to the patient.

Examples of a Token Economy


  • PRIDE Bucks can be used to "purchase" items from the school store. Teachers reward students for good behaviors with the PRIDE Bucks and students' positive behaviors are reinforced because of the conditioned value. PRIDE bucks can also be used in LRQ bidding wars.
  • Prisoners are sometimes rewarded for good behavior and can redeem their tokens for things like cigarettes, stamps, or magazines.
  • Many consider the dollar, and the entire capitalist system, to be representative of a token economy. The dollar supports behaviors of hard work, bright ideas, and motivates people into action. Without the ability to purchase items, the dollar would just be a meaningless piece of paper. This means that it is a conditioned stimulus, which is part of the idea of a token economy.
  • When a chimpanzee performs a desired behavior, he gets plastic tokens which he can exchange for raisins.
  • A teacher rewarding a student with candy for answering a question correctly is reinforcing a positive behavior.

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See Also...

  1. www.minddisorders.com
  2. http://www.polyxo.com/visualsupport/tokeneconomies.html
  3. http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/free-resources/behavior-management/token-system
4. Atthowe Jr, J. M., & Krasner, L. (1968). Preliminary report on the application of contingent reinforcement procedures (token economy) on a" chronic" psychiatric ward. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 73(1), 37.


Psych Ward Experiment