Mediation Analysis in Social Psychology: Current Practices and New Recommendations

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Abstract

A key aim of social psychology is to understand the psychological processes through which independent variables affect dependent variables in the social domain. This objective has given rise to statistical methods for mediation analysis. In mediation analysis, the significance of the relationship between the independent and dependent variables has been integral in theory testing, being used as a basis to determine (1) whether to proceed with analyses of mediation and (2) whether one or several proposed mediator(s) fully or partially accounts for an effect. Synthesizing past research and offering new arguments, we suggest that the collective evidence raises considerable concern that the focus on the significance between the independent and dependent variables, both before and after mediation tests, is unjustified and can impair theory development and testing. To expand theory involving social psychological processes, we argue that attention in mediation analysis should be shifted towards assessing the magnitude and significance of indirect effects.

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