A Primate's Memoir

by Robert M. Sapolsky

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What behavioral sampling technique do you think Sapolsky used in A Primate's Memoir, considering what he was collecting data on?

Quick answer:

In A Primate's Memoir, local animal sampling, instantaneous sampling, and sequence sampling are relevant behavioral sampling techniques used by Robert Sapolsky in his study of the baboon community in Kenya.

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Robert Sapolsky’s goal to dart a baboon suggests that he’s also engaging in focal animal sampling. Sapolsky is singling out a baboon so that he can measure their stress hormones, cholesterol, and so on. Here, Sapolsky is focused on one baboon. The baboon, in this instance, becomes the focal point.

At other times, separate from darting, Sapolsky engages in focal animal sampling. Think about when Sapolosky describes the baboon baby Obadiah. For this description, Obadiah and his singular looks become the focal point.

The scope of Sapolsky’s study also suggests that he’s engaged in instantaneous sampling. He’s observing the baboons as they behave in the moment, but he’s not watching the baboons nonstop for 20 years. His data comes from the instances when he interacts with them. At one instance, the baboons might be doing nothing besides hanging around and relaxing. Another instance, the baboons might be fighting. One of the fights that Sapolsky witnesses is because of the mere chance that he happened to be there when it occurred. If he had been journeying to Uganda when Nick attacked Reuben, he wouldn’t have seen it.

A final sampling technique that is relevant to Sapolsky is sequence sampling. When Sapolsky describes the altercation between Nick and Reuben, he’s presenting a series of connected events based on his own knowledge of the baboon community.

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