Use of a token economy

The Tanners were running a group home for six adolescent boys who had been in trouble with the law. All the adolescents were expected to engage in a number of desirable behaviors on a daily basis. In addition, some problem behaviors were defined for each adolescent. The Tanners decided to use a token economy to help the adolescents increase their desirable behaviors and decrease the problem behaviors. They defined the target behaviors and used points as reinforcers. They reinforced the desirable behaviors on a specific schedule of reinforcement and removed points when problem behaviors were exhibited. The Tanners bought a pinball machine and a video game to use as backup reinforcers in the token economy. The machines were in the reinforcement room, and the adolescents could buy access to the room in the evening by exchanging tokens for x minutes of time.

What is wrong with this use of a token economy?

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Mr. O’Malley was in the teacher’s lounge talking about the difficulty he was having with the students in his classroom. He was teaching six special education students, and they were exhibiting a number of behavior problems. A fellow special education teacher told Mr. O’Malley that he had had success with a token economy. He suggested that Mr. O’Malley put the students’ names on the board, put a point after their names when they were being good, and erase points when they were exhibiting problems. After each class, the student with the most points would get a special privilege. Mr. O’Malley decided that this was a great idea and implemented it the next day.

What is wrong with this use of a token economy?

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