Procedures and Accuracy of Discontinuous Measurement of Problem Behavior in Common Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Linda A. LeBlanc
  • Coby Lund
  • Chris Kooken
  • Janet B. Lund
  • Wayne W. Fisher
Research Article


Discontinuous measurement involves dividing an observation into intervals and recording whether a behavior occurred during some or all of each interval (i.e., interval recording) or at the exact time of observation (i.e., momentary time sampling; MTS). Collecting discontinuous data is often easier for observers than collecting continuous data, but it also produces more measurement error. Smaller intervals (e.g., 5 s, 10 s, 15 s) tend to produce less error but may not be used in everyday practice. This study examined the most common intervals used by a large sample of data collectors and evaluated the effect of these intervals on measurement error. The most commonly used intervals fell between 2 and 5 min. We then analyzed over 800 sessions to evaluate the correspondence between continuous and discontinuous data at each commonly used interval. Intervals of 3 min or less produced the greatest correspondence, and MTS outperformed interval recording.


Data collection Discontinuous measurement Partial interval Momentary time sample Observation interval 


Author Note

The authors thank Jamila Pitts for assistance with coding data from research articles.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors of this manuscript are employed by or serve on the advisory board of DataFinch Technologies (i.e., Catalyst).

Informed Consent

All agencies whose data were included in the analysis provided consent.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DataFinch TechnologiesAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.GoldenUSA
  3. 3.Monroe Meyer InstituteUniversity of Nebraska Medical CenterOmahaUSA

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