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Akaike's information criterion (AIC) is increasingly being used in analyses in the field of ecology. This measure allows one to compare and rank multiple competing models and to estimate which of them best approximates the “true” process underlying the biological phenomenon under study. Behavioural ecologists have been slow to adopt this statistical tool, perhaps because of unfounded fears regarding the complexity of the technique. Here, we provide, using recent examples from the behavioural ecology literature, a simple introductory guide to AIC: what it is, how and when to apply it and what it achieves. We discuss multimodel inference using AIC—a procedure which should be used where no one model is strongly supported. Finally, we highlight a few of the pitfalls and problems that can be encountered by novice practitioners.