Token Economy Programmes

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  • Token Economy Programmes (TEPs)
    • used in prisons to encourage pro-social behaviour
    • based on operant conditioning principles
      • a rewards system is imposed which can be gained if a desired behaviour is performed
      • prison management draws up a list of appropriate behaviours and offenders can earn tokens
      • rewards must be negotiated with the offender; rewards are only effective if they're wanted
    • viewed as a way of controlling behaviour rather than as a solution
    • provides a legitimate way of gaining access to privileges
    • Evaluation
      • Pearson et al: meta-analysis on anger management and TEPs, found AM helped reduce recidivism but TEPs didn't work
      • gives prisoners a sense of control over their behaviour and rewards earned
      • TEPs can lead to learned helplessness
      • questionable as to whether they violate human rights. they are at least patronising to adults
      • success could just be due to improved prisoner-staff relationships and more attention from staff
      • learnt behaviour may not generalise to the outside world. society's rewards are subtler and less frequent than tokens


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