A simulated comparison of behavioural observation sampling methods

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
James Edward Brereton, Jonathan Tuke, Eduardo J Fernandez
Scientific Reports
, ,

Behavioural research requires the use of sampling methods to document the occurrence of responses observed. Sampling/recording methods include ad libitum, continuous, pinpoint (instantaneous), and one-zero (interval) sampling. Researchers have questioned the utility of each sampling method under different contexts. Our study compared computerized simulations of both pinpoint and one-zero sampling to continuous recordings. Two separate computer simulations were generated, one for response frequency and one for response duration, with three different response frequencies (high, medium, or low) and response durations (short, medium, and long) in each simulation, respectively. Similarly, three different observation intervals (5, 50, and 500 s) were used to record responses as both pinpoint and one-zero sampling methods in the simulations. Under both simulations, pinpoint sampling outperformed one-zero sampling, with pinpoint sampling producing less statistical bias in error rates under all frequencies, durations, and observation intervals. As observation intervals increased, both mean error rates and variability in error rates increased for one-zero sampling, while only variability in error rate increased for pinpoint sampling. The results suggest that pinpoint sampling techniques are effective for measuring both frequency (event) and duration (state) behaviours, and that pinpoint sampling is a less statistically biased behavioural observation method than one-zero sampling.


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