Token Economies: General Guidelines

2. Administering Tokens

At least three issues are important to consider here. First, tokens should be delivered (or removed) as soon as possible after the desired (undesired) behavior occurs. Martin & Pear (1998) suggest "a reinforcer is not likely to have much direct effect on a behavior that precedes the reinforcer by anything longer than 30 seconds" (p. 35). Second, if more than one person is involved in administering tokens, then each should have an assigned role. Otherwise, complications may arise. For example, if Joe dressed well for the evening meal, he might be awarded his 200 points twice, once by the manager and perhaps a little while later by an unaware teaching parent. Third, dispensing tokens should be combined with praise and encouragement; this would include telling the person why he or she is receiving the token. This pairing might strengthen these natural social events as reinforcers themselves, and later, should the client be weaned from the token economy, they might then be better utilized in maintaining the desired behaviors.