Reasons for testing mediation in the absence of an intervention effect

A research imperative in prevention and intervention research

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Mediation models are used in prevention and intervention research to assess the mechanisms by which interventions influence outcomes. However, researchers may not investigate mediators in the absence of intervention effects on the primary outcome variable. There is emerging evidence that in some situations, tests of mediated effects can be statistically significant when the total intervention effect is not statistically significant. In addition, there are important conceptual and practical reasons for investigating mediation when the intervention effect is nonsignificant. Method: This article discusses the conditions under which mediation may be present when an intervention effect does not have a statistically significant effect and why mediation should always be considered important. Results: Mediation may be present in the following conditions: when the total and mediated effects are equal in value, when the mediated and direct effects have opposing signs, when mediated effects are equal across single and multiple-mediator models, and when specific mediated effects have opposing signs. Mediation should be conducted in every study because it provides the opportunity to test known and replicable mediators, to use mediators as an intervention manipulation check, and to address action and conceptual theory in intervention models. Conclusions: Mediators are central to intervention programs, and mediators should be investigated for the valuable information they provide about the success or failure of interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-181
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Volume79
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

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mediation
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Testing
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manipulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

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title = "Reasons for testing mediation in the absence of an intervention effect: A research imperative in prevention and intervention research",
abstract = "Objective: Mediation models are used in prevention and intervention research to assess the mechanisms by which interventions influence outcomes. However, researchers may not investigate mediators in the absence of intervention effects on the primary outcome variable. There is emerging evidence that in some situations, tests of mediated effects can be statistically significant when the total intervention effect is not statistically significant. In addition, there are important conceptual and practical reasons for investigating mediation when the intervention effect is nonsignificant. Method: This article discusses the conditions under which mediation may be present when an intervention effect does not have a statistically significant effect and why mediation should always be considered important. Results: Mediation may be present in the following conditions: when the total and mediated effects are equal in value, when the mediated and direct effects have opposing signs, when mediated effects are equal across single and multiple-mediator models, and when specific mediated effects have opposing signs. Mediation should be conducted in every study because it provides the opportunity to test known and replicable mediators, to use mediators as an intervention manipulation check, and to address action and conceptual theory in intervention models. Conclusions: Mediators are central to intervention programs, and mediators should be investigated for the valuable information they provide about the success or failure of interventions.",
author = "Holly O'Rourke and David Mackinnon",
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AU - Mackinnon, David

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N2 - Objective: Mediation models are used in prevention and intervention research to assess the mechanisms by which interventions influence outcomes. However, researchers may not investigate mediators in the absence of intervention effects on the primary outcome variable. There is emerging evidence that in some situations, tests of mediated effects can be statistically significant when the total intervention effect is not statistically significant. In addition, there are important conceptual and practical reasons for investigating mediation when the intervention effect is nonsignificant. Method: This article discusses the conditions under which mediation may be present when an intervention effect does not have a statistically significant effect and why mediation should always be considered important. Results: Mediation may be present in the following conditions: when the total and mediated effects are equal in value, when the mediated and direct effects have opposing signs, when mediated effects are equal across single and multiple-mediator models, and when specific mediated effects have opposing signs. Mediation should be conducted in every study because it provides the opportunity to test known and replicable mediators, to use mediators as an intervention manipulation check, and to address action and conceptual theory in intervention models. Conclusions: Mediators are central to intervention programs, and mediators should be investigated for the valuable information they provide about the success or failure of interventions.

AB - Objective: Mediation models are used in prevention and intervention research to assess the mechanisms by which interventions influence outcomes. However, researchers may not investigate mediators in the absence of intervention effects on the primary outcome variable. There is emerging evidence that in some situations, tests of mediated effects can be statistically significant when the total intervention effect is not statistically significant. In addition, there are important conceptual and practical reasons for investigating mediation when the intervention effect is nonsignificant. Method: This article discusses the conditions under which mediation may be present when an intervention effect does not have a statistically significant effect and why mediation should always be considered important. Results: Mediation may be present in the following conditions: when the total and mediated effects are equal in value, when the mediated and direct effects have opposing signs, when mediated effects are equal across single and multiple-mediator models, and when specific mediated effects have opposing signs. Mediation should be conducted in every study because it provides the opportunity to test known and replicable mediators, to use mediators as an intervention manipulation check, and to address action and conceptual theory in intervention models. Conclusions: Mediators are central to intervention programs, and mediators should be investigated for the valuable information they provide about the success or failure of interventions.

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