Congratulations, you have just won $1,000,000 dollars tax free! If that were a true statement, chances are, many of us would be in shock. In all honesty, I probably would have a heart attack and pass out. Money. Money is something that all of us need. We work for it. We slave for it. People spend their money on lottery tickets and scratchers to get more of it. Think about it. If I asked you why money is so important to you, the following responses would be common: “I need it for food”, “Money pays my rent”, “It pays my bills”, “Money lets me go shopping”, “Money lets me travel the world”. Money is thin pieces of paper. If I were to print out something that looks like real money from my computer, no one would want it. Even if it were an identical match, no one would want it. Why? Because only the certified dollar bills and coins are associated with value. Society has placed its value on little thin pieces of paper. Those pieces of paper are what we work for and help us survive. However, money in the scheme of life, is a token. We cash in our money for things that we need and things that we want. We choose what to cash in our money, or tokens for. This is a real-life example of a token economy. Money is the tokens, and we cash in the money for necessities and desires.
If you are new to the field of ABA, there are several researchers and authors that you want to get familiar with. Some such authors are Cooper, Heron, and Heward. In their book, they state that a token economy is: “A system whereby participants earn generalized conditioned reinforcers (e.g. tokens, chips, points) as an immediate consequence for certain behaviors; participants accumulate tokens and exchange them for items and activities from a menu of backup reinforcers” (Cooper, Heron & Heward, 2007, p. 706).
When it comes to us earning money, many of us earn it based on the type of job we do. Many of us get our paycheck based on how many hours you worked across 2 weeks. That is how we earn our money/tokens. Then once it is payday, we literally cash in our tokens to pay our bills, get food, and/or “treat” ourselves.
The field of applied behavior analysis is one that helps us rethink how our world operates. It allows us to open our minds and dive into why behaviors occur and how to help modify those behaviors. Now you know, there are token economies all around us. I encourage each of you to identify token economies in our own life. Maybe with your own habits, or with your children. The possibilities are endless. Your friendly BCBA, Jenna.