New book review out: Measuring behaviour

Book review: Martin and Bateson’s Measuring Behaviour
By Laure-Anne Visele, written Dec 2012

This article is part of my collection of book reviews.

AUTHORS: Paul Martin & Patrick Bateson


SUMMARY: Overview of the standards and techniques of behaviour measurement in research.


  • Overview of the behaviour sciences
  • Pre-study decisions
  • Sampling and recording methods (e.g. ad libitum, one-zero, etc.)
  • Testing measure reliability and validity
  • Assessing research design
  • Statistical analysis
  • Specific aspects (e.g. bout length, sequences, dyadic exchanges, etc.)
  • Interpreting and presenting findings


A must-have if you are contemplating a scientific career on dog behaviour. Otherwise, leave it well alone: the target audience is firmly academic.

If you’re studying ethology, it’s likely a compulsory read for your college –and rightly so. What the book lacks in depth (it’s just 170 pages), it makes up in breadth: taking you through a wide sweep at all essential topics for measuring behaviour.

If you’re past your first year in Psych/Ethology, it will serve as a wonderful, concise, refresher of the fundamentals. If you’re new to the field, it’ll give you the entry point that you need to get your feet wet without drowning.

A couple of  paragraphs gave me the clearest explanations I’d ever read: e.g. four questions of ethology, sampling vs. recording methods, the interrelated behaviour sciences, etc. And the list of annotated references offers a great tool if you want to dig deeper.

I do have an ax to grind though: some statistics chapters were soooo superficial that they barely covered the conceptual level.  The chapter on Findings presentation took it even further, to the meager agenda that was covered seemed to have been picked haphazardly. As this chapter isn’t core to that what the book purports to do, I would have done away with that chapter altogether, to make room for more details in other sections.

Verdict time: I love that it is succinct, I hate that it is succinct… A classic all the same.

Your comments

I’d be curious to hear what you thought of this book. Let me know what you think. Have you read a similar one and how do they compare in breadth/depth/consistency?

Further reading

Dogs and society

Dog training and behaviour

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