Using repeatability to study physiological and behavioural traits: ignore time-related change at your peril

Biro, Peter A. and Stamps, Judy A. 2015, Using repeatability to study physiological and behavioural traits: ignore time-related change at your peril, Animal behaviour, vol. 105, pp. 223-230, doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.04.008.

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Title Using repeatability to study physiological and behavioural traits: ignore time-related change at your peril
Author(s) Biro, Peter A.ORCID iD for Biro, Peter A.
Stamps, Judy A.
Journal name Animal behaviour
Volume number 105
Start page 223
End page 230
Total pages 8
Publisher Elsevier
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2015-07-01
ISSN 0003-3472
Keyword(s) Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Behavioral Sciences
behavioural syndromes
mixed models
Summary © 2015 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Broad sense repeatability, which refers to the extent to which individual differences in trait scores are maintained over time, is of increasing interest to researchers studying behavioural or physiological traits. Broad sense repeatability is most often inferred from the statistic R (the intraclass correlation, or narrow sense repeatability). However, R ignores change over time, despite the inherent longitudinal nature of the data (repeated measures over time). Here, we begin by showing that most studies ignore time-related change when estimating broad sense repeatability, and estimate R with low statistical power. Given this problem, we (1) outline how and why ignoring time-related change in scores (that occurs for whatever reason) can seriously affect estimates of the broad sense repeatability of behavioural or physiological traits, (2) discuss conditions in which various indices of R can or cannot provide reliable estimates of broad sense repeatability, and (3) provide suggestions for experimental designs for future studies. Finally, given that we already have abundant evidence that many labile traits are 'repeatable' in that broad sense (i.e. R>. 0), we suggest a shift in focus towards obtaining robust estimates of the repeatability of behavioural and physiological traits. Given how labile these traits are, this will require greater experimental (and/or statistical) control and larger sample sizes in order to detect and quantify change over time (if present).
Language eng
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.04.008
Field of Research 060201 Behavioural Ecology
Socio Economic Objective 969999 Environment not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2015, Elsevier
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