Incentivizing physical activity using token reinforcement with preschool children

J Appl Behav Anal. 2019 May;52(2):499-515. doi: 10.1002/jaba.536. Epub 2019 Jan 13.


We combined several single-subject designs to assess the effects of contingent and noncontingent token reinforcement on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) exhibited by 4 preschool-aged children. Higher overall levels and longer bouts of MVPA reliably occurred when tokens were delivered contingent on MVPA for 3 of the 4 children when compared to baseline (no token) and for 2 of the 4 children when compared to noncontingent-token conditions. The present study demonstrated that the delivery of tokens contingent on MVPA can increase and maintain MVPA exhibited by preschool-aged children, resulting in more MVPA than in baseline conditions and conditions in which tokens are awarded without respect to MVPA. These results demonstrate that token economies can be used to increase MVPA and they add to the evidence base supporting the use of token economies to address a range of behavior problems.

Keywords: conditioned reinforcement; incentives; physical activity; preschool; token reinforcement.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reinforcement, Psychology*
  • Token Economy*