Token Economy (Psychology)

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  • A behavior modification procedure, based on operant conditioning principles, in which patients are given a conditioned reinforcer, such as tokens, for targeted behavior. Tokens can be exchanged for primary reinforcers such as snacks or social privileges. Token economies were once used on a widespread basis in institutions for mentally retarded or mentally ill individuals. When conducted fairly and consistently, patients tend to respond well. However, inconsistent implementation in large institutions, as well as ethical concerns over the undue influence on patients, have caused token economies to fall out of use.

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