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.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #233
CE Offered: BACB
Application and Investigations of Token Reinforcement Systems
Sunday, May 25, 2014
2:00 PM–3:50 PM
W194b (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: EDC/DDA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Andrew L. Samaha (University of South Florida)
Discussant: John C. Borrero (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
CE Instructor: Andrew Samaha, Ph.D.

Token reinforcement systems have endeared themselves in educational settings and other core domains of applied behavior analysis, including developmental disabilities, since the beginnings of the field (Ayllon & Azrin, 1968; Kazdin, 1977; Kazdin, 1978). In addition to providing opportunities to expand the scope and relevance of our field, such systems also provide an important set tools to behavior analysts studying the conceptual underpinnings of phenomena such as reinforcement, conditioned reinforcement, and punishment. The four papers presented in this symposium continue this tradition by demonstrating the usefulness of token systems in diverse applications. Donaldson, DeLeon, Fisher, and Kahng demonstrate the use of a token procedure to evaluate differences and preferences for gaining versus losing rewards. Russell, Ingvarsson and Haggar investigate the use of a token system in the context of behavioral economic procedures designed to contrast the value of different categories of reinforcers. Boyle, Samaha, and Bloom evaluate maintenance of responding under schedule thinning using fixed and variable schedules of token exchange. Finally, Parry and Anderson examine the effectiveness of a token reinforcement system augmented with self-managed check-in/check-out.

Keyword(s): token economy, token reinforcement
Using Progressive Ratio Schedules to Evaluate Edible, Leisure, and Token Reinforcement
DANIELLE MARIE RUSSELL (University of North Texas), Einar T. Ingvarsson (University of North Texas), Jennifer Haggar (University of North Texas)
Abstract: The general purpose of the current study was to evaluate the potency of different categories of reinforcers with young children diagnosed with developmental delays. The participants were two boys and one girl ages 7 to 8, and the measured response was written solutions to math facts. In Phase 1, the reinforcing potency of tokens, edible items, and leisure items was evaluated by using a progressive ratio (PR) schedule. For two participants, tokens resulted in the highest PR break points. For one participant, edibles resulted in the highest break points, while tokens were found to have the lowest break points. In Phase 2, the effects of presession access on the break points of edibles and tokens were examined. This manipulation evaluated the extent to which tokens might function as generalized conditioned reinforcers. Presession access altered the break points of edibles, but not tokens. Further, during presession access, participants chose to exchange their tokens for activities rather than edibles. These findings suggest that PR schedules may be useful to assess the effectiveness of different categories of reinforcers in the context of specific tasks, and to evaluate to what extent token training results in the establishment of tokens as generalized conditioned reinforcers.
Effects of and Preference for Conditions of Token Earn vs. Loss
JEANNE M. DONALDSON (Texas Tech University), Iser Guillermo DeLeon (Kennedy Krieger Institute), Alyssa Fisher (Kennedy Krieger Institute), SungWoo Kahng (Kennedy Krieger Institute)
Abstract: The effects of token earning and losing on the disruptive behavior of 12 first-grade students was evaluated under symmetrical contingencies of earn and loss. Both contingencies produced decreases in disruptive behavior. For some participants, more consistent decreases were observed during the loss contingency. Additionally, participants generally earned/kept more tokens during the loss contingency. When offered a choice of contingencies, the majority of participants preferred the loss contingency. The results showed some consistency with behavioral economic principles of loss aversion and the endowment effect.

Increasing Unit Price: A Comparison of Fixed- and Variable-Ratio Token Schedules

MEGAN A. BOYLE (Utah State University), Andrew L. Samaha (University of South Florida), Sarah E. Bloom (University of South Florida)

Token economies involve individuals working to earn tokens that are exchangeable for back-up reinforcers. Token economies produce meaningful changes in behavior, however an important issue related to token schedules is how best to fade the schedule of back-up reinforcement to practical and cost-effective levels. Although research shows that token economies continue to be effective during and after schedule thinning, little research exists regarding the best way to do so. The concept of unit price from behavioral economics predicts that responding will be the same given the same ratio of cost (e.g., ratio requirements) to benefits (back-up reinforcers earned), and treats fixed- and variable-ratio requirements the same in terms of cost. Despite this prediction, early research on variable-ratio schedules suggests that they maintain responding at higher ratio requirements than fixed-ratio schedules. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare fixed- and variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement while increasing response requirements to earn back-up reinforcers (i.e., unit price) in the context of a token reinforcement system for compliance with academic tasks. Results showed no consistent differences between the schedules at any unit price.


Incorporating Self-Management into a School-Based, Tier II Token Economy Intervention

MICHAEL PARRY (University of Oregon), Cynthia M. Anderson (Appalachian State University)

Check-in/check-out is an evidence-based Tier II intervention used widely in schools. CICO is a Tier II intervention designed for use within a comprehensive, school-wide framework. Components of CICO include frequent feedback on social behavior and a token economy. We investigated a modification of this intervention, incorporating the use of self-management into check-in/check-out. The intervention included the following features: morning and afternoon feedback sessions with a mentor, self-monitoring of performance throughout the day, randomly scheduled accuracy checks, and rewards contingent upon earned points. We used an ABAB reversal design to assess experimental control. Across participants, the self-management intervention resulted in decreases in disruptive behavior and increases in academic engagement. Social validity data were mixed with students and parents rating the intervention as valued and the coordinator rating the intervention as not useful. Possible reasons for the mixed social validity will be discussed with an emphasis on systems-variables necessary for successfully embedding an intervention in the school culture.




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