Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Anthony DeFulio

Second Advisor

Dr. Wayne Fuqua

Third Advisor

Dr. Jon Baker

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Tim Hackenberg


Token economy, tokens, token reinforcement, demand, token demand


Token economies are systems of contingencies that are designed to reinforce targeted behavior. Engaging in a targeted behavior produces conditioned stimuli that can later be exchanged for established reinforcers. A back-up reinforcer is an established reinforcer that can be acquired by exchanging the tokens. A component of token economies that has received little attention in the literature is the composition of the set of back-up reinforcers available for exchange; typically referred to as the menu. When used as part of behavior therapy, the token menu often contains a set of items that has been identified by conducting a preference assessment or interview. Absent an empirical basis for doing otherwise, most decisions about the structure of the menu are made for logistical reasons, and in some cases may reflect nothing more than what is convenient for the therapist. The overall purpose of the present studies was to determine the effects of token menu manipulations and token component schedules on demand for tokens. In the main study, the token production schedule, types of items on the menu, and the number of items on the menu were manipulated to assess their effects on demand for tokens. Essential value increased as the number of items on the menu increased for all four study conditions. A statistically significant interaction was observed. This interaction involved the effects of the number of menu items and reinforcer category on essential value. Specifically, the mixed 12-item menu produced the highest essential values, and the primary reinforcer 3-item menu produced the lowest essential values. From a translational perspective, these results highlight the importance of including back-up reinforcers that are related to a variety of motivational operations whenever possible when designing token economies, and that larger menus should outperform smaller menus, at least across the range of values used in the present studies. Future research should involve the implementation of a mixed model with more narrow constraints on response parameters to control for variability in the dataset.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access