New recommendations for testing indirect effects in mediational models: the need to report and test component paths

Abstract

In light of current concerns with replicability and reporting false-positive effects in psychology, we examine Type I errors and power associated with two distinct approaches for the assessment of mediation, namely the component approach (testing individual parameter estimates in the model) and the index approach (testing a single mediational index). We conduct simulations that examine both approaches and show that the most commonly used tests under the index approach risk inflated Type I errors compared to the joint-significance test inspired by the component approach. We argue that the tendency to report only a single mediational index is worrisome for this reason and also because it is often accompanied by a failure to critically examine the individual causal paths underlying the mediational model. We recommend testing individual components of the indirect effect to argue for the presence of an indirect effect and then using other recommended procedures to calculate the size of that effect. Beyond simple mediation, we show that our conclusions also apply in cases of within-participant mediation and moderated mediation. We also provide a new R-package that allows for an easy implementation of our recommendations.

Publication
In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Date