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Keywords:

  • alternating poisson process;
  • behavioral sampling;
  • doubly exponential process;
  • duration;
  • incidence;
  • instantaneous sampling;
  • point sampling;
  • prevalence

Abstract

Point or instantaneous sampling refers to the scoring of presence or absence of behavior at the end of equally spaced intervals of time and is used to estimate prevalence. The literature cited demonstrates that point sampling does not adequately estimate frequency or mean bout duration. A parametric model is developed based on exponentially distributed times of behavior and intervening nonbehavior, thus enabling estimators of mean bout length and incidence. Variance estimators are provided and a method is suggested for designing sample situations which control the variance of the prevalence estimator. The paper concludes the theoretical investigation with a thorough Monte Carlo investigation and application to a “real-life” problem. The point sample estimators compare favorably with continuous observation under appropriate choice of sampling interval and under approximately exponential assumptions.