Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

In my shop, all you need to become a VIP customer is to get discounted.

          Behaviour analysis is a research field that conceives a human behaviour as an output, which must have been produced by an input (Thorndike, 1927). This mechanism between output and input behaviour is explicitly controllable   with reinforcers. There are positive and negative reinforcers that increases and decreases the target behaviour, respectively.

          Token economy coined by Kazdin (1977) is a term for the tactic that uses this mechanism. Token is another name of a positive reinforcer but it allows a delayed reward to still effectively increase the desirable behaviour while the Thorndike’s original principle requires the rewarding to be given immediately after the desirable behaviour occurrence. Also token economy has back-up reinforcer that renders delayed reinforcer to be effective.

          To give you an idea, in a classroom setting for example, you as a teacher want to change the attitudes of students to be more alive and engaging. If you propose in the class that you will give a token to a person who to give any sort of answers to your question, regardless of correct or incorrectness. The accumulated token can be exchangeable with for example, a pizza later on –in this way rewarding is not necessarily need to be followed immediately. First one or two braves will give it a shot. And by confirming how easy it is to get a token, the rest of the students’ attempt (desirable behaviour) will increase. It is important to praise (back-up reinforcer) for every single one giving the token. Once the iced atmosphere of the class has been changed, the students will still be motivated to raise up their hands even when there is no token since they will gain a positive feedback (back-up reinforcer maintenance).

          Similarly, this can be applied in my future business. I will make my own women’s wear online shop.  As this field has been getting more and more competitive nowadays I might need some other marketing strategies to get attention from online consumers. As I am a baby to this field, listening to and applying customers’ opinion to my online shop should be a good start. To collect the consumer reviews as many as possible, I need to make my visitor not only to be more actively look around my shop but also to comment on it so that I can notice.

          Token economy must be the most suitable in this situation. I will propose that any person who write reviews regarding my shop in terms of any aspect (i.e. the look of the website or the quality and style of the clothing), regardless of the positivity or negativity, will be given the points that is exchangeable with the % of the discount (token). That is, 1% discount per comment will be given to the commenter. So if you wrote five comments you will gain 5% discount of an item. If you wrote 10 comments you will get 10% discounted.

          For a long term perspective, however this would not be financially profitable and I might end up my first business with bankrupt. I might wish to stop this tactic as soon as I reach to a certain level of popularity. On one hand I might also want to keep my website alive. Here goes the extinction principle. While I give the points to the commenters I will also give them other points such as good-customer-points (back-up reinforcer) of which certain level of accumulation leads to the VIP class. Some privileged services will be limited to VIP customers such that you can order a particular item tailored to your size and style or you will gain the first priority access for the latest arrivals etc. Instead once you reach the VIP class, you have no more % discount from your comment. But up to that stage you would have realised that you are receiving far better services then a penny discount (back-up reinforcer maintenance). Then even when the token (% of discount) is withdrawn you would have been habituated to be actively looking around my shop every time you visit my online shop and I would become a successful businesswoman!


Kazdin, A. E. (1977). The token economy: A review and evaluation. New York: Plenum Press.

Thorndike, E. L. (1927). The law of effect. The American Journal of Psychology, 39, 212-222.

Heejae Park (blog 4)

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