Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford


  • Amelie RomainEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_1863-1


Tokens are object or symbol that has no intrinsic value; its function is established through relations to other reinforcers. Tokens have been described as secondary reinforcer that can be exchanged for a primary reinforcer like food (Sousa and Matsuzawa 2001; Wolfe 1936).


Token systems are ubiquitous in human culture, providing the basic framework for economic transactions within the world. A token is often manipulable and easy to handle (e.g., coins, cubes) but can be non-manipulable as well (e.g., stimulus lamps, points on a counter, checkmarks). Tokens are called secondary reinforcers when they are collected and later exchanged for a primary reinforcer, as a meaningful object or some food. A primary reinforcer is an unconditioned or unlearned reward (e.g., food), whereas a secondary reinforcer is a conditioned reward associated with a specific value, which will be learned over time (e.g., money). Token’s value can remain unchanged for extended period and,...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Bureau d’étude AKONGOToulonFrance

Section editors and affiliations

  • Valerie Dufour
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Ecology, Physiology and EthologyUniversity of StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance