Measuring behaviour – an introductory guide

Bateson_Measuring behaviourPUBLISHING YEAR: 2007

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

AUDIENCE: 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.


  • 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.

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.

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Author: Bateson Patrick, Martin Paul
Genre: academic manual
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