Inter-Rater Reliability of Total Body Score—A Scale for Quantification of Corpse Decomposition

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Abstract

The degree of body decomposition can be quantified using Total Body Score (TBS), a scale frequently used in taphonomic or entomological studies of decomposition. Here, the inter-rater reliability of the scale is analyzed. The study was made on 120 laymen, which were trained in the use of the scale. Participants scored decomposition of pig carcasses from photographs. It was found that the scale, when used by different people, gives homogeneous results irrespective of the user qualifications (the Krippendorff's alfa for all participants was 0.818). The study also indicated that carcasses in advanced decomposition receive significantly less accurate scores. Moreover, it was found that scores for cadavers in mosaic decomposition (i.e., representing signs of at least two stages of decomposition) are less accurate. These results demonstrate that the scale may be regarded as inter-rater reliable. Some propositions for refinement of the scale were also discussed.

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