On the (In)Validity of Tests of Simple Mediation: Threats and Solutions

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Mediation analysis is a popular framework for identifying underlying mechanisms in social psychology. In the context of simple mediation, we review and discuss the implications of three facets of mediation analysis: (a) conceptualization of the relations between the variables, (b) statistical approaches, and (c) relevant elements of design. We also highlight the issue of equivalent models that are inherent in simple mediation. The extent to which results are meaningful stem directly from choices regarding these three facets of mediation analysis. We conclude by discussing how mediation analysis can be better applied to examine causal processes, highlight the limits of simple mediation, and make recommendations for better practice.






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Pek, J, and RH Hoyle (2016). On the (In)Validity of Tests of Simple Mediation: Threats and Solutions. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10(3). pp. 150–163. 10.1111/spc3.12237 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/13818.

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Rick Hoyle

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Research in my lab concerns the means by which adolescents and emerging adults manage pursuit of their goals through self-regulation. We take a broad view of self-regulation, accounting for the separate and interactive influences of personality, environment (e.g., home, school, neighborhood), cognition and emotion, and social influences on the many facets of goal management. Although we occasionally study these influences in controlled laboratory experiments, our preference is to study the pursuit of longer-term, personally meaningful goals “in the wild.” Much of our work is longitudinal and involves repeated assessments focused on the pursuit of specific goals over time. Some studies span years and involve data collection once or twice per year. Others span weeks and involve intensive repeated assessments, sometimes several times per day. We use these rich data to model the means by which people manage real goals in the course of everyday life.

In conjunction with this work, we spend considerable time and effort on developing and refining means of measuring or observing the many factors at play in self-regulation. In addition to developing self-report measures of self-control and grit and measures of the processes we expect to wax and wane over time in the course of goal pursuit, we are working on unobtrusive approaches to tracking goal pursuit and progress through mobile phones and wearable devices.

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