Token Economy

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  • Created by: Em
  • Created on: 19-03-16 14:37

Token Economy Description

It is a way to modify the behaviour that can be used with prison inmates, aggressive criminals on community disorders and offenders in high security psychiatric hospitals.

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Token Economy Description

It uses operant conditioning to positively reinforce, and therefore increase the frequency of desired behaviours. The behaviours are reinforced with tokens (secondary reinforcers) which can be saved up and exchanged for goods or opportunities such as phone calls or cigarettes. 

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Token Economy Description

Alternatively, tokens may be withheld if undesireable behaviours are demonstrated. The aim is to give tokens as immediate rewards, which is more effective as they are more readily associated with the desired behaviour than if the reinforcement is delayed.

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Token Economy Evaluation

One criticism often raised is that institution staff can choose to reward or punish behaviour in order to make their own lives easier rather than for the benefit of the inmates. 

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Token Economy Evaluation

Jenkins et al (1974) studied young male offenders in the 18-month period after their release. 1 out of 3 groups were on the token economy programme and this group had the lowest percentage of post-release offences.

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Token Economy Evaluation

Corrigan (1995) raised a criticism that making adults submit to a token economy is humiliating and infantilising.

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Token Economy Evaluation

Hobbs and Holt (1976) found that the token economy system improved the targeted behaviours in the places the boys were staying (cottages) where as the behaviour of the boys not staying on the programme remained fairly constant.

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Token Economy Evaluation

The programme only attempts to alter the outcomes- such as antisocial behaviour- not the cause of those problems. Thus, when the learned responses disappear, the original causes still motivate criminal behaviour. Therefore the programme is only short term.

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