Behavior Sampling

States: Long term duration

Events: Short term, quantifiable Ex. jumping

Two types of sampling:


  • Watching something for a predetermined amount of time, on a single animal and record all of its activities
  • Useful for observing both states and events
  • Best way to observe interactions
  • Unbiased record of behavior

Instantaneous/ Scan sampling

  • Watch 1 animal or a group of animals and record what the animals is doing at pre set intervals
  • Don’t need to be able to identify individuals
  • Useful for observing states only
  • Can monitor large groups

Comparing methods: Observe for 20 minutes, record occurrence of a particular behavior

Calculating Activity Budgets


  • Calculate # seconds engaged in each entry (state behaviors only) on data sheet
  • Sum up total # seconds for each behavior
  • Total # seconds engaged in behavior/ total # seconds of observation
  • # occurrences of each event (does not go into activity budget)


  • Count number of scans engaged in each behavior
  • Divide by total number of scans

Inter-observer Reliability

  • If you do 20 scans:
  • Same behavior recorded for 18 of them
  • 18/20=90% agreement
  • Why might there be a differences?
  • What can we do to minimize them?





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