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A cautionary note on the power of the test for the indirect effect in mediation analysis

Tom Loeys UGent, Beatrijs Moerkerke UGent and Stijn Vansteelandt UGent (2015) FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. 5.
abstract
Recent simulation studies have pointed to the higher power of the test for the mediated effect vs. the test for the total effect, even in the presence of a direct effect. This has motivated applied researchers to investigate mediation in settings where there is no evidence of a total effect. In this paper we provide analytical insight into the circumstances under which higher power of the test for the mediated effect vs. the test for the total effect can be expected in the absence of a direct effect. We argue that the acclaimed power gain is somewhat deceptive and comes with a big price. On the basis of the results, we recommend that when the primary interest lies in mediation only, a significant test for the total effect should not be used as a prerequisite for the test for the indirect effect. However, because the test for the indirect effect is vulnerable to bias when common causes of mediator and outcome are not measured or not accounted for, it should be evaluated in a sensitivity analysis.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
journalArticle (original)
publication status
published
subject
keyword
VARIABLES, type I error, indirect effect, confounding, power, BARON, mediation analysis, sensitivity analysis
journal title
FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY
volume
5
article number
1549
pages
8 pages
Web of Science type
Article
Web of Science id
000348135900001
JCR category
PSYCHOLOGY, MULTIDISCIPLINARY
JCR impact factor
2.463 (2015)
JCR rank
29/129 (2015)
JCR quartile
1 (2015)
ISSN
1664-1078
DOI
10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01549
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
A1
copyright statement
I have transferred the copyright for this publication to the publisher
id
5878492
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-5878492
date created
2015-03-09 12:27:12
date last changed
2016-12-21 15:41:21
@article{5878492,
  abstract     = {Recent simulation studies have pointed to the higher power of the test for the mediated effect vs. the test for the total effect, even in the presence of a direct effect. This has motivated applied researchers to investigate mediation in settings where there is no evidence of a total effect. In this paper we provide analytical insight into the circumstances under which higher power of the test for the mediated effect vs. the test for the total effect can be expected in the absence of a direct effect. We argue that the acclaimed power gain is somewhat deceptive and comes with a big price. On the basis of the results, we recommend that when the primary interest lies in mediation only, a significant test for the total effect should not be used as a prerequisite for the test for the indirect effect. However, because the test for the indirect effect is vulnerable to bias when common causes of mediator and outcome are not measured or not accounted for, it should be evaluated in a sensitivity analysis.},
  articleno    = {1549},
  author       = {Loeys, Tom and Moerkerke, Beatrijs and Vansteelandt, Stijn},
  issn         = {1664-1078},
  journal      = {FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY},
  keyword      = {VARIABLES,type I error,indirect effect,confounding,power,BARON,mediation analysis,sensitivity analysis},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {8},
  title        = {A cautionary note on the power of the test for the indirect effect in mediation analysis},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01549},
  volume       = {5},
  year         = {2015},
}

Chicago
Loeys, Tom, Beatrijs Moerkerke, and Stijn Vansteelandt. 2015. “A Cautionary Note on the Power of the Test for the Indirect Effect in Mediation Analysis.” Frontiers in Psychology 5.
APA
Loeys, T., Moerkerke, B., & Vansteelandt, S. (2015). A cautionary note on the power of the test for the indirect effect in mediation analysis. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY, 5.
Vancouver
1.
Loeys T, Moerkerke B, Vansteelandt S. A cautionary note on the power of the test for the indirect effect in mediation analysis. FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY. 2015;5.
MLA
Loeys, Tom, Beatrijs Moerkerke, and Stijn Vansteelandt. “A Cautionary Note on the Power of the Test for the Indirect Effect in Mediation Analysis.” FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY 5 (2015): n. pag. Print.