Article written by Mark Tranmer, DPDF 2007 The Political Economy of Redistribution Fellow Christopher Steven Marcum, F. Blake Morton, Darren P. Croft, and Selvino R. de Kort, featured in Animal Behaviour, Volume 101:
Social dynamics are of fundamental importance in animal societies. Studies on nonhuman animal social systems often aggregate social interaction event data into a single network within a particular time frame. Analysis of the resulting network can provide a useful insight into the overall extent of interaction. However, through aggregation, information is lost about the order in which interactions occurred, and hence the sequences of actions over time. Many research hypotheses relate directly to the sequence of actions, such as the recency or rate of action, rather than to their overall volume or presence. Here, we demonstrate how the temporal structure of social interaction sequences can be quantified from disaggregated event data using the relational event model (REM). We first outline the REM, explaining why it is different from other models for longitudinal data, and how it can be used to model sequences of events unfolding in a network. We then discuss a case study on the European jackdaw, Corvus monedula, in which temporal patterns of persistence and reciprocity of action are of interest, and present and discuss the results of a REM analysis of these data. One of the strengths of a REM analysis is its ability to take into account different ways in which data are collected. Having explained how to take into account the way in which the data were collected for the jackdaw study, we briefly discuss the application of the model to other studies. We provide details of how the models may be fitted in the R statistical software environment and outline some recent extensions to the REM framework.