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.


48th Annual Convention; Boston, MA; 2022

Event Details

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Symposium #460
CE Offered: BACB
Token Economies: Recent Advances in Applied Research and Implications for Practice
Monday, May 30, 2022
10:00 AM–11:50 AM
Meeting Level 2; Room 251
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Yanerys Leon (University of Miami)
Discussant: Nadrat Nuhu (Marcus Autism Center and Emory University School of Medicine)
CE Instructor: Yanerys Leon, Ph.D.
Abstract: Tokens are among the most commonly used reinforcers for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) across intervention contexts (Graff & Karsten, 2012). Despite the robust body of basic research on basic parameters of token reinforcement, and the ubiquitous use of tokens in practice, there is little applied research on best practice for conditioning and arranging tokens as reinforcers for individuals with ASD and IDD. This symposium will present a range of topics related to a) common practices in token economy implementation, b) conditioning procedures to establish tokens as reinforcers for individuals with limited language, and c) functional effects of structural differences in token economies (e.g., manipulable vs non-manipulable tokens; interest-based vs novel tokens). Practical considerations for clinicians utilizing token economies in practice will be highlighted and suggestions for future research on best practice in arranging token economies will be discussed.
Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): conditioned reinforcement, school-based applications, token economy, tokens
Target Audience: Participants should have basic background of reinforcement systems for learners with ASD or IDD.
Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: a) Describe common practices in implementation of token economies for individuals with ASD / IDD. b) Describe best practice for conditioning tokens as reinforcers for individuals with limited language c) Describe the impact of token manipulation and use of interest-based tokens on token efficacy

The Evolution of Token Economies From Research to Practice: A Survey of Common Strategies Used in Clinical and Educational Settings

NATHALIE FERNANDEZ (Kenndey Krieger), Tracy Argueta (University of Florida), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida)

Token economies are among the most widely used procedures in behavior analysis and research on token economies has spanned over 80 years. Some textbooks have outlined the essential components of token economies and suggested how they could be trained and implemented in practice (Cooper et al. 2020; Miltenberger, 2015). Hackenberg (2018) outlined a plethora of translational and applied research on token systems and suggested there is still much more work to be done. However, procedures evaluated in applied research can vary from how those procedures are implemented in clinical practice. It may be the case that the way in which token economies are implemented in clinical settings do not resemble the procedures described in research and behavior analytic textbooks. We surveyed certified clinicians about their commonly used practices when training and implementing token economies with individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Results suggest that token economies in practice often bear little resemblance to how they are described in the literature. Suggestions for future research will be discussed.


Descriptive Assessment of Token Economy Structure in School-Based Settings

CHRISTINA RODRIGUEZ (University of Miami), Yanerys Leon (University of Miami), Alexandra Ramirez (University of Miami), Elisa Alonso Duque (University of Miami), Ashley Ramos (University of Miami)

We conducted a descriptive assessment of token economy structure and implementation in two ABA-based schools serving individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). We collected data on several aspects of the token economy structure including: a) type of token, b) token characteristics, c) accumulation strategy, d) exchange strategy, e) type and cost of backup reinforcer, f) context of token use, and g) proportion of students using a token economy. We discuss the results in light of findings from the basic and applied research on token economies and provide practical considerations for clinicians arranging token economies for learners with ASD and IDD in school contexts. Finally, we provide suggestions for future researchers to examine common practice-based variations of token economies that have not yet been empirically examined in the applied or basic research base.


A Comparison of Procedures to Establish Tokens as Conditioned Reinforcers

TRACY ARGUETA (University of Florida ), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (University of Florida), Yanerys Leon (University of Miami), Nathalie Fernandez (Kenndey Krieger)

Tokens are among the most common consequences delivered by behavior analysts who work with individuals with developmental disabilities (Graff & Karsten, 2012). However, recommendations for establishing tokens as conditioned reinforcers vary and many questions remain about best practices. In this study, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities completed preference and reinforcer assessments, from which we identified two to three backup reinforcers. We then evaluated four procedures for establishing tokens as conditioned reinforcers, usually followed by extinction tests to determine if the token had assumed any independent value. We began with stimulus-stimulus (SS) pairing of tokens with the backup reinforcers. If SS pairing did not establish tokens as conditioned reinforcers, we evaluated response-stimulus (RS) pairing and/or noncontingent token-exchange training, in which participants exchanged noncontingently delivered tokens for backup reinforcers. If neither of these procedures established tokens as conditioned reinforcers, we assessed response-contingent token-exchange training. Results suggest that (1) exchange plays a critical role in supporting reinforcer effectiveness, and (2) the conditions under which we evaluate the effects of token training might influence our results and conclusions.

Effects of Token Manipulation on Token Reinforcement Efficacy
BREANNA R ROBERTS (University of Kansas), Kathryn A Gorycki (The University of Kansas), Ashley Romero (University of Kansas), Lisa Marie Ambrosek (The University of Kansas), Pamela L. Neidert (The University of Kansas)
Abstract: Researchers have shown that numerous factors may influence the effectiveness of token reinforcement arrangements (Hackenberg, 2018). Sleiman et al. (2020) evaluated the effects of one potentially influential factor – token manipulation – for three young children with ASD. Results showed higher rates of target responding during no token-manipulation conditions for one participant and no difference for the other two participants. The current study replicates and extends Sleiman et al. (2020) by evaluating the relative effects of token manipulation for children with and without developmental disabilities and by examining the extent to which physically manipulating tokens is associated with handling costs (e.g., engagement in behavior incompatible with the target response, delays to task reorientation after receiving a token, etc.). Preliminary results for 1 child diagnosed with autism show higher levels of task completion in both token conditions as compared to baseline. Further, near-zero levels of inappropriate token manipulation occurred and delays to reorienting to the task were short. Results will be discussed in terms of relative efficacy and preference of token manipulation, implications of allowing token manipulation, and potential child demographics correlated with differential efficacy of allowing token manipulation.



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