Help Privacy Policy Disclaimer
  Advanced SearchBrowse




Journal Article

Multinomial analysis of behavior: Statistical methods


Koster,  Jeremy       
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;


McElreath,  Richard       
Department of Human Behavior Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

External Resource
No external resources are shared
Fulltext (restricted access)
There are currently no full texts shared for your IP range.
Fulltext (public)

(Publisher version), 988KB

Supplementary Material (public)
There is no public supplementary material available

Koster, J., & McElreath, R. (2017). Multinomial analysis of behavior: Statistical methods. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71(9): 138. doi:10.1007/s00265-017-2363-8.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002D-E6ED-7
Behavioral ecologists frequently use observational methods, such as instantaneous scan sampling, to record the behavior of animals at discrete moments in time. We develop and apply multilevel, multinomial logistic regression models for analyzing such data. These statistical methods correspond to the multinomial character of the response variable while also accounting for the repeated observations of individuals that characterize behavioral datasets. Correlated random effects potentially reveal individual-level trade-offs across behaviors, allowing for models that reveal the extent to which individuals who regularly engage in one behavior also exhibit relatively more or less of another behavior. Using an example dataset, we demonstrate the estimation of these models using Hamiltonian Monte Carlo algorithms, as implemented in the RStan package in the R statistical environment. The supplemental files include a coding script and data that demonstrate auxiliary functions to prepare the data, estimate the models, summarize the posterior samples, and generate figures that display model predictions. We discuss possible extensions to our approach, including models with random slopes to allow individual-level behavioral strategies to vary over time and the need for models that account for temporal autocorrelation. These models can potentially be applied to a broad class of statistical analyses by behavioral ecologists, focusing on other polytomous response variables, such as behavior, habitat choice, or emotional states.