- LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0245
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0245
Mediation analysis is a statistical method used to quantify the causal sequence by which an antecedent variable causes a mediating variable that causes a dependent variable. Although mediation analysis is useful for observational studies, it is perhaps most compelling for answering questions of cause and effect in randomized treatment and prevention programs. Information about mediating mechanisms improves programs by providing information about the critical ingredients of successful programs. Sewall Wright’s work in the 1920s first applied the notion of mediated or indirect effects in path models for the inheritance of skin color in guinea pigs. Methodological developments and applications of mediation analysis have dramatically increased since ideas about mediation in the social sciences were first formalized by Herbert Hyman and Paul Lazarsfeld in 1955. Innovations in mediation analyses have been rapid in the last forty years, and recently progress in understanding the causal basis of mediation analysis has been a major breakthrough.
Early History of Mediation
Wright 1920 was the first work to describe effects on variables that are indirect through other variables in the study of heritability of guinea pigs. Hyman 1955 and Lazarsfeld 1955 provide the original descriptions of how a third variable affects the relation between two variables through a series of statistical tests that were later translated into decomposition of effects by Alwin and Hauser 1975, mediation in psychology by James and Brett 1984 and Baron and Kenny 1986, and in evaluation by Judd and Kenny 1981. Sobel 1982 and Sobel 1986 describe matrix formulas for the calculation of indirect effects and their standard errors that can be used to form confidence intervals and significance testing for the indirect effect. MacKinnon, et al. 1991 applies tests of mediation in the analysis of an intervention study. Robins and Greenland 1992 describes a counterfactual-based approach to mediated effects that form the basis of subsequent causal mediation analysis. MacKinnon and Dwyer 1993 formalizes these developments for regression models and applies them to prevention and treatment research.
Alwin, D. F., and R. M. Hauser. 1975. The decomposition of effects in path analysis. American Sociological Review 40:37–47.
Mathematical description of how total effects are decomposed into direct and indirect effects based on prior research. Includes a clear description of the many types of indirect effects and how they are calculated.
Baron, R. M., and D. A. Kenny. 1986. The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 51.6: 1173–1182.
Clarifies the difference between mediation and moderation with an overview of how to conduct analyses with regression.
Hyman, H. H. 1955. Survey design and analysis: Principles, cases and procedures. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
First to present a list of steps for testing mediation elaborated in later mediation publications.
James, L. R., and J. M. Brett. 1984. Mediators, moderators, and tests for mediation. Journal of Applied Psychology 69.2: 307–321.
Describes mediation and moderation as functional relations between variables and their conceptualization in psychology.
Judd, C. M., and D. A. Kenny. 1981. Process analysis: Estimating mediation in treatment evaluations. Evaluation Review 5.5: 602–619.
The classic mediation paper. Contains the first description of causal steps to assess mediation and the importance of the interaction of the moderator and the mediator and longitudinal mediation models data.
Lazarsfeld, P. F. 1955. Interpretation of statistical relations as a research operation. In The language of social research: A reader in the methodology of social research. Edited by P. F. Lazarsfeld and M. Rosenberg, 115–125. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Original description of how including a third variable in analysis affects the relation between two variables, including how an intervening variable would affect the relation between two variables.
MacKinnon, D. P., and J. H. Dwyer. 1993. Estimating mediated effects in prevention studies. Evaluation Review 17.2: 144–158.
Includes equations for mediation estimation, standard error formulas, and evaluates methods with a statistical simulation study. Describes how mediation analysis with logistic regression leads to different values for product of coefficient and difference in coefficient methods for mediation analysis.
MacKinnon, D. P., C. A. Johnson, M. A. Pentz, et al. 1991. Mediating mechanisms in a school-based drug prevention program: First-year effects of the Midwestern Prevention Project. Health Psychology 10.3: 164–172.
First paper to estimate mediated effects and standard errors in the evaluation of an intervention.
Robins, J. M., and S. Greenland. 1992. Identifiability and exchangeability for direct and indirect effects. Epidemiology 3.2: 143–155.
Outlines all the possible actual and counterfactual conditions for mediation analysis as a function of assumptions. Introduces what later became the counterfactual mediation model. Groundbreaking paper on a counterfactual approach to causal mediation.
Sobel, M. E. 1982. Asymptotic confidence intervals for indirect effects in structural equation models. Sociological Methodology 13:290–312.
Derives the standard error of the indirect effect for confidence intervals based on the multivariate delta method. Also derives the multivariate standard error for the effect size measures, the proportion mediated, and the ratio of the mediated effect to the direct effect.
Sobel, M. E. 1986. Some new results on indirect effects and their standard errors in covariance structure models. Sociological Methodology 16:159–186.
General matrix formulation for multivariate delta method standard errors for indirect effects for general structural equation models. Matrix equations in this paper are used in modern software to compute mediated effects and standard errors.
Wright, S. 1920. The relative importance of heredity and environment in determining the piebald pattern of guinea pigs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 6:320–332.
Classic, original, description of path analysis with direct and indirect effects applied to the skin color of guinea pigs. Mention of indirect effects as the product of path coefficients.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Abnormal Psychology
- Academic Assessment
- Acculturation and Health
- Action Regulation Theory
- Action Research
- Addictive Behavior
- Adoption, Social, Psychological, and Evolutionary Perspect...
- Affective Forecasting
- Ageism at Work
- Allport, Gordon
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Ambulatory Assessment in Behavioral Science
- Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA)
- Animal Behavior
- Animal Learning
- Anxiety Disorders
- Art and Aesthetics, Psychology of
- Assessment and Clinical Applications of Individual Differe...
- Attachment in Social and Emotional Development across the ...
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Childre...
- Attitudinal Ambivalence
- Attraction in Close Relationships
- Attribution Theory
- Authoritarian Personality
- Bayesian Statistical Methods in Psychology
- Behavior Therapy, Rational Emotive
- Behavioral Economics
- Behavioral Genetics
- Belief Perseverance
- Bereavement and Grief
- Biological Psychology
- Birth Order
- Body Image in Men and Women
- Bystander Effect
- Categorical Data Analysis in Psychology
- Childhood and Adolescence, Peer Victimization and Bullying...
- Clinical Neuropsychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Consistency Theories
- Cognitive Dissonance Theory
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Communication, Nonverbal Cues and
- Comparative Psychology
- Competency to Stand Trial
- Computational Psychology
- Conflict Management in the Workplace
- Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
- Coping Processes
- Counseling Psychology
- Creativity at Work
- Critical Thinking
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Cultural Psychology
- Daily Life, Research Methods for Studying
- Data Science Methods for Psychology
- Data Sharing in Psychology
- Death and Dying
- Deceiving and Detecting Deceit
- Defensive Processes
- Depressive Disorders
- Development, Prenatal
- Developmental Psychology (Cognitive)
- Developmental Psychology (Social)
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM...
- Dissociative Disorders
- Drugs and Behavior
- Eating Disorders
- Ecological Psychology
- Educational Settings, Assessment of Thinking in
- Effect Size
- Embodiment and Embodied Cognition
- Emerging Adulthood
- Emotional Intelligence
- Empathy and Altruism
- Employee Stress and Well-Being
- Environmental Neuroscience and Environmental Psychology
- Ethics in Psychological Practice
- Event Perception
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Expansive Posture
- Experimental Existential Psychology
- Exploratory Data Analysis
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Eysenck, Hans
- Factor Analysis
- Festinger, Leon
- Five-Factor Model of Personality
- Flynn Effect, The
- Forensic Psychology
- Friendships, Children's
- Fundamental Attribution Error/Correspondence Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Game Theory and Psychology
- Geropsychology, Clinical
- Habit Formation and Behavior Change
- Health Psychology
- Health Psychology Research and Practice, Measurement in
- Heider, Fritz
- Heuristics and Biases
- History of Psychology
- Human Factors
- Humanistic Psychology
- Implicit Association Test (IAT)
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Inferential Statistics in Psychology
- Intelligence, Crystallized and Fluid
- Intercultural Psychology
- Intergroup Conflict
- International Classification of Diseases and Related Healt...
- International Psychology
- Interviewing in Forensic Settings
- Intimate Partner Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Item Response Theory
- Law, Psychology and
- Lazarus, Richard
- Learned Helplessness
- Learning Theory
- Learning versus Performance
- LGBTQ+ Romantic Relationships
- Lie Detection in a Forensic Context
- Life-Span Development
- Locus of Control
- Loneliness and Health
- Mathematical Psychology
- Meaning in Life
- Mechanisms and Processes of Peer Contagion
- Media Violence, Psychological Perspectives on
- Mediation Analysis
- Memories, Autobiographical
- Memories, Flashbulb
- Memories, Repressed and Recovered
- Memory, False
- Memory, Human
- Memory, Implicit versus Explicit
- Memory in Educational Settings
- Memory, Semantic
- Metaphor, Psychological Perspectives on
- Military Psychology
- Mindfulness and Education
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
- Money, Psychology of
- Moral Conviction
- Moral Development
- Moral Psychology
- Moral Reasoning
- Nature versus Nurture Debate in Psychology
- Neuroscience of Associative Learning
- Nonergodicity in Psychology and Neuroscience
- Nonparametric Statistical Analysis in Psychology
- Obsessive-Complusive Disorder (OCD)
- Occupational Health Psychology
- Olfaction, Human
- Operant Conditioning
- Optimism and Pessimism
- Organizational Justice
- Parenting Stress
- Parenting Styles
- Path Models
- Peace Psychology
- Perception, Person
- Performance Appraisal
- Personality and Health
- Personality Disorders
- Personality Psychology
- Phenomenological Psychology
- Placebo Effects in Psychology
- Play Behavior
- Positive Psychological Capital (PsyCap)
- Positive Psychology
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Prejudice and Stereotyping
- Pretrial Publicity
- Prisoner's Dilemma
- Problem Solving and Decision Making
- Prosocial Behavior
- Prosocial Spending and Well-Being
- Protocol Analysis
- Psychological Literacy
- Psychological Perspectives on Food and Eating
- Psychology, Political
- Psychophysics, Visual
- Psychotic Disorders
- Publication Bias in Psychology
- Reasoning, Counterfactual
- Rehabilitation Psychology
- Religion, Psychology and
- Replication Initiatives in Psychology
- Research Methods
- Risk Taking
- Sample Size Planning for Statistical Power and Accurate Es...
- Schizophrenic Disorders
- School Psychology
- School Psychology, Counseling Services in
- Self, Gender and
- Self, Psychology of the
- Self-Determination Theory
- Self-Regulation in Educational Settings
- Self-Report Tests, Measures, and Inventories in Clinical P...
- Sensation Seeking
- Sex and Gender
- Sexual Minority Parenting
- Sexual Orientation
- Signal Detection Theory and its Applications
- Simpson's Paradox in Psychology
- Single People
- Single-Case Experimental Designs
- Skinner, B.F.
- Sleep and Dreaming
- Small Groups
- Social Class and Social Status
- Social Cognition
- Social Neuroscience
- Social Support
- Social Touch and Massage Therapy Research
- Somatoform Disorders
- Spatial Attention
- Sports Psychology
- Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE): Icon and Controversy
- Stereotype Threat
- Stress and Coping, Psychology of
- Student Success in College
- Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis
- Taste, Psychological Perspectives on
- Teaching of Psychology
- Terror Management Theory
- Testing and Assessment
- The Concept of Validity in Psychological Assessment
- The Neuroscience of Emotion Regulation
- The Reasoned Action Approach and the Theories of Reasoned ...
- Theory of Mind
- Therapies, Person-Centered
- Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral
- Thinking Skills in Educational Settings
- Time Perception
- Trait Perspective
- Trauma Psychology
- Twin Studies
- Type A Behavior Pattern (Coronary Prone Personality)
- Unconscious Processes
- Virtues and Character Strengths
- Women and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM...
- Women, Psychology of
- Work Well-Being
- Wundt, Wilhelm