is an evidence-based strategy that involves providing tangible reinforcers such
as vouchers, goods, or privileges for reaching concrete targeted
behaviors. It is based on the following principles of Operant
Conditioning pioneered by behaviorist B.F. Skinner:
1. Punishment - the presentation of
an aversive stimuli after a target behavior decreases the
frequency of that behavior.
Example – Your boss yells at you (aversive
stimuli) for surfing the internet during work (undesired behavior) so you stop
surfing at work.
2. Positive reinforcement – the presentation of
a pleasant stimuli after a target behavior occurs increases the
likelihood of that behavior happening again.
Example – When you buy a tank of gas at a
certain gas station (desired behavior) you get a free cup of coffee (pleasant
stimuli), so you choose that gas station to pump your gas each time.
3. Negative reinforcement - the removal of
an aversive stimuli after a desired behavior has occurred increases the
likelihood of that behavior.
Example – The only way to get your car to stop
beeping at you (aversive stimuli) is to put your seat belt on (desired behavior)
Contingency Management focuses on providing positive reinforcement when desired
target behaviors occur and withholding reinforcers when desired behaviors do
for Advancing Correctional Excellence! (ACE!)
Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence! (ACE!) at George Mason University
conducts collaborative and creative research to assist policy makers and
correctional practitioners with using evidence-based practices.
JSTEPS: Using Rewards in Justice Treatment Programs:
Technology & Contingency Management
Management interventions use systematic reinforcement with rewards (or
punishment) to alter problem behaviors, usually substance use, in offenders.
Rewards have been used widely in clinical treatment programs. They have been
shown to successfully change targeted behaviors of substance abusers, including
decreasing the number of positive drug tests and increasing treatment