Token Economy Programme

Learning Approach- A way of treating offenders

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  • Created by: Claudia
  • Created on: 10-01-12 11:00

Token Economies

Token Economies

  • Token Economy Programmes in prisons are used to obtain desirable behaviour in closed institutions such as prisons- a form of behaviour modification
  • These programmes started in the 1960s
  • There was hope that this would be extremely successful, given the success of the use of learning theories in changing behaviour
  • It involves a system of rewards being set up for the desired behaviour
  • Rewards are usually tokens or points
  • They can periodically exchanged for something that the individual wants
  • This is an important part of the programme as reward(s) must genuinely reward the person and the tokens themselves are not rewarding
  • Desirable behaviour, such as cooperation and compliance is reinforced with the use of tokens
  • They have no intrinsic value and are secondary reinforcers - but can be exchanged for primary reinforcers which are things wanted by the person
  • Many of the programmes in prisons also use negative reinforcement with the use of tokens + punishment in order to reduce undesirbale behaviour such as non compliance and aggression.
  • This includes the removal of priviliges, such as watching TV or going to the exercise yard- whilst typical punishment may be isolation.
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Evaluation- Strengths

  • Hobbs and Holt (1976)- set up a token economy designed to modify the behaviour of 125 adolescent males committed to a state correctional institution implemented to boys' cottages. Focused on social behaviour (peer interaction) and rule following and task completion. Program was introduced to 3 cottages, 4th cottage was a control group for comparison. Appropriate behaviour increased when the TEP was introduced in each cottage. Data was collected for 14 months thus the long term effects of initial behaviour change were assesed.
  • Many TEP studies have taken place in psychiatric hospitals. Field et al (2004),looked at a TEP used with young people with behavioural problems. The programme was generally effective although there were still a number of young people who did not respond. These youths were later placed on a special programme where the rewards were more immediate and more frequent and the results were positive
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