Vol 9, Issue 1, February 2022

Which Index Should I Use? A Comparison of Indices for Enclosure Use Studies


Brereton, J. E., & Fernandez, E. J. (2022). Which index should I use? A comparison of indices for enclosure use studies. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 9(1), 119-132. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Enclosure use assessments have gained popularity as one of the tools for animal welfare assessments and Post Occupancy Evaluations. There are now a plethora of studies and enclosure use indices available in published literature, and identification of the most appropriate index for each research question is often challenging. The benefits and limitations of four different enclosure use indices; Original and Modified Spread of Participation Index (SPI), Entropy, and Electivity Index were compared. Three artificial data sets were developed to represent the challenges commonly found in animal exhibits, and these indices were applied to these contrived enclosure settings. Three of the indices (Original SPI, Modified SPI, and Entropy) were used to assess a single measure of enclosure use variability. When zones within an exhibit were comparable in size, all three indices performed similarly. However, with less equal zone sizes, Modified SPI outperformed Original SPI and Entropy, suggesting that the Modified formula was more useful for assessing overall enclosure use variability under such conditions. Electivity Index assessed the use of individual zones, rather than the variability of use across the entire exhibit, and therefore could not be compared directly to the other three indices. This index is therefore most valuable for assessing individual resources, especially after exhibit modifications.


Electivity index, Enclosure use, Entropy, Spread of participation index, Post occupancy evaluation