Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


35th Annual Convention; Phoenix, AZ; 2009

Event Details

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Symposium #445
Science Board Translational Series: Laboratory and Applied Perspectives on Token Reinforcement
Monday, May 25, 2009
2:00 PM–3:20 PM
North 225
Area: EAB; Domain: Experimental Analysis
Chair: Timothy D. Hackenberg (University of Florida)
Discussant: Timothy D. Hackenberg (University of Florida)
Abstract: Token reinforcement systems are among the oldest and most successful technologies to emerge from behavior analysis. Numerous studies have documented the therapeutic and educational benefits of token procedures across a wide range of settings and subject populations. Unlike most successful technologies in behavior analysis, however, the science and technology of token systems have developed largely in parallel, with little cross-fertilization of ideas and concepts. The present symposium is designed to bridge the gap between laboratory and applied research on token systems, bringing together complementary research programs from laboratory and applied research realms. Each presentation will review token reinforcement from a different perspective—Hackenberg on laboratory research, Borrero on token economies in traditional applied settings (e.g., classrooms, clinics), and Silverman on token (voucher) reinforcement in substance-abuse contexts. The goal is to identify common themes that cut across research areas, facilitating productive interaction along the laboratory-application continuum.
Token Reinforcement in the Laboratory and Beyond
TIMOTHY D. HACKENBERG (University of Florida)
Abstract: There is a long history of laboratory research on token reinforcement, dating back to the 1930s and extending through to the present day. Despite periods of productive research activity, the literature on token reinforcement has developed sporadically, with little integration across research programs. The purpose of the present paper is to review what is known about token reinforcement under laboratory conditions and in relation to general principles of behavior. Special emphasis will be placed on domains with applicability to research in applied settings—generalized reinforcement, antecedent functions, and conditioned punishment—to foster productive dialogue among laboratory and applied scientists.
Token Economies in Applied Settings: Suggestions for Bidirectional Interaction Along the Basic-Applied Continuum
JOHN C. BORRERO (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Abstract: In the applied literature the token economy has been implemented as a behavior change procedure for over 40 years, and is quite common in classroom and vocational settings in which research is not conducted (i.e., it is commonly used a behavior change procedure and not as a mechanism for the conduct of original research). Basic research involving token reinforcement preparations has too comprised a respectable slice of the literature in a period spanning more than 50 years. However, at both ends of the basic-applied continuum, token economy research has decreased considerably in the last 40 to 50 years. This presentation will: (a) review the history of the token economy in applied settings, (b) review some existing nonhuman literature with implications for improving the viability of the token economy in application, and (c) include suggestions for basic experimentation to address matters of importance in the application of token systems. In all cases, past and current token research will be highlighted.
Voucher-Based Token Reinforcement in the Treatment of Drug Addiction
KENNETH SILVERMAN (Johns Hopkins University)
Abstract: Evidence from the laboratory and the clinic suggests that drug addiction can be viewed as operant behavior and effectively treated through the application of principles of operant conditioning. The principles of operant conditioning have been applied to the treatment of drug addiction with particular effectiveness in abstinence reinforcement procedures. Under these procedures, patients receive desirable consequences contingent on providing objective evidence of drug abstinence (e.g., drug-free urine samples). Voucher-based abstinence reinforcement, in which patients receive token reinforcers (monetary vouchers exchangeable for goods and services), has been particularly effective and versatile. Guided by basic laboratory research on operant conditioning, voucher-based token reinforcement has been effective in promoting abstinence from a range of drugs and in diverse populations. It has been parametrically manipulated to increase the proportion of patients that respond to the intervention and to promote long-term abstinence. It has been integrated into a variety of settings, including treatment clinics, drug courts, and workplaces. This presentation will review the history, current status, and future directions of research on voucher reinforcement in the treatment of drug addiction, with examples from a program of research that has focused on the treatment of cocaine and heroin addiction in poor and chronically unemployed adults living in Baltimore, MD.



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