Information-theoretic approaches to statistical analysis in behavioural ecology: an introduction

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Scientific thinking may require the consideration of multiple hypotheses, which often call for complex statistical models at the level of data analysis. The aim of this introduction is to provide a brief overview on how competing hypotheses are evaluated statistically in behavioural ecological studies and to offer potentially fruitful avenues for future methodological developments. Complex models have traditionally been treated by model selection approaches using threshold-based removal of terms, i.e. stepwise selection. A recently introduced method for model selection applies an information-theoretic (IT) approach, which simultaneously evaluates hypotheses by balancing between model complexity and goodness of fit. The IT method has been increasingly propagated in the field of ecology, while a literature survey shows that its spread in behavioural ecology has been much slower, and model simplification using stepwise selection is still more widespread than IT-based model selection. Why has the use of IT methods in behavioural ecology lagged behind other disciplines? This special issue examines the suitability of the IT method for analysing data with multiple predictors, which researchers encounter in our field. The volume brings together different viewpoints to aid behavioural ecologists in understanding the method, with the hope of enhancing the statistical integration of our discipline.

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