Imagine you are in a Time zone gaming arena, where you win tickets for every game you win and score you receive. The dopamine rush of winning tickets pumps you to play more and play better. The concept of a Token Economy is based on the exact same concept. A Token Economy is a system in which behavioural analysis is applied to lure people into doing the righteous act or the expected work. This system is conceptualised on the theories of behavioural economics and uses applied behavioural analysis. It is setting up a reward system to promote more socially empowering and righteous behaviour. This system is also synonymous with operant conditioning, where learners are subjected to a reward and punishment depending on their performance.
The Basic Token Economic Cycle
Essentially token economies are aimed to be implemented on adults and citizens and have been successfully modelled with pigeons in lab settings. For implementing this technique, the institution must enlist the desirable actions and the no. of token to be awarded for that action. These tokens can be ordinary objects that are mutually decided to be tokens like- poker chips, tickets, etc. Since these items have no intrinsic value, reinforcers need to be established for the collection of tokens. This implies that for the collection of a specific number of tokens, a reward must be given to further incentivise their good action. The rewards need to be assigned keeping in mind different socio-economic groups and age groups. A child can be awarded a toy they desire or an old person can be provided with some health care assistance. The criteria and reward must be meticulously listed to avoid confusion and misunderstandings. For a token economy to work, criteria have to be specific and clear. On a micro level, the token economy can be implemented in hospitals and psychiatric hospitals to regulate morally wrong or incorrect behaviour and implement righteous manners without any extreme measures.
It can be implemented in hospitals,
in the education of differently-abled children, for military contingents, schools, and colleges. These are places where the high performance of individuals is necessary. While implementing a token economy, several things need to be kept in mind. Initially, everyone needs to be awarded these tokens. To ensure they feel motivated to earn them and avail of their benefits. At the start, the frequency of tokens must be high to instil that behaviour in the person. But with the gradual course of time, the token frequency must be decreased. To ensure they are independent in implementing the habit. This way the habit is established initially by providing tokens and slowly establishing those behaviours as their muscle memory so that they don’t need the incentive to do it anymore. Rewards are the same for all members of a group, the use of punishment (response cost) is less restrictive than other forms of punishment, and individuals can learn skills related to planning for the future. With numerous advantages, there is a certain downfall to this school of thought as well. It includes tedious managerial tasks, drafting a framework for implementation, and an extensive monitoring system to avoid the participation of unfair means. The token economy will also require considerable capital investment to be successfully implemented. It is often said to be time-consuming and impractical. The token economy must be stopped from becoming an obsessive compulsion for which people avoid their main priorities. Controversy exists regarding placing individuals in treatment against their will.
A token economy in all its glory,
in a sense, promotes the idea of dictating the behaviour of a person. A person needs to be provided with the freedom to decide their morals and how to conduct their lives. Surely, illicit acts must not be condoned in society. But controlling the overall behaviour of a person is denying their freedom. Children raised by a system of rewards and punishment may derive their self-worth from these rewards. Which can be detrimental to their mental health. This inhibits people to explore their individuality and express it in their unique way. However, on a macro scale of society, the positives may weigh down the negatives. This system of incentives may lead to socially righteous behaviours and promote kindness, hygiene, academic merit, etc among the citizens. While they repeat such actions over a period of time, they will turn into good habits that stay etched lifelong. The token economy is a two-faced coin that must be experimented with. Explore its impact and if implemented correctly can yield mind-boggling results.
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