The Measurement of the Mediator and Its Influence on Statistical Mediation Conclusions

Oscar Gonzalez, David P. MacKinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In psychology, the causal process between 2 variables can be studied with statistical mediation analysis. To make a causal interpretation about the relation between variables, researchers who use the statistical mediation model make many assumptions about the variables in the model, among which are measurement assumptions about the mediator. For example, researchers often assume that the measure of the mediator yields scores that are reliable and that have a valid interpretation. In this article, we address how several measurement challenges affect the conclusions of statistical mediation analysis, and how researchers can use different psychometric models to study theoretically different causal processes. We use simulated data sets to illustrate how 10 well-fitting and theoretically sound statistical mediation models could significantly detect the indirect effect or miss it entirely depending on how the mediator is represented in the model. In the example, power to detect the indirect effect varied by the amount of true mediator variance that the psychometric model of the mediator was able to isolate. Different strategies to incorporate psychometric methods into mediation research are discussed and future directions are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological Methods
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Factor models
  • Reliability
  • Statistical mediation
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (miscellaneous)

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