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J Gen Psychol. 2009 Apr;136(2):153-76. doi: 10.3200/GENP.136.2.153-178.

Mediation analysis: a retrospective snapshot of practice and more recent directions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3720 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


R. Baron and D. A. Kenny's (1986) paper introducing mediation analysis has been cited over 9,000 times, but concerns have been expressed about how this method is used. The authors review past and recent methodological literature and make recommendations for how to address 3 main issues: association, temporal order, and the no omitted variables assumption. The authors briefly visit the topics of reliability and the confirmatory-exploratory distinction. In addition, to provide a sense of the extent to which the earlier literature had been absorbed into practice, the authors examined a sample of 50 articles from 2002 citing R. Baron and D. A. Kenny and containing at least 1 mediation analysis via ordinary least squares regression. A substantial proportion of these articles included problematic reporting; as of 2002, there appeared to be room for improvement in conducting such mediation analyses. Future literature reviews will demonstrate the extent to which the situation has improved.

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