Establishing a causal chain: Why experiments are often more effective than mediational analyses in examining psychological processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 845-851

Psychology Department, University of Waterloo, ON, Canada.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 01/2006; 89(6):845-51. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.6.845
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The authors propose that experiments that utilize mediational analyses as suggested by R. M. Baron and D. A. Kenny (1986) are overused and sometimes improperly held up as necessary for a good social psychological paper. The authors argue that when it is easy to manipulate and measure a proposed psychological process that a series of experiments that demonstrates the proposed causal chain is superior. They further argue that when it is easy to manipulate a proposed psychological process but difficult to measure it that designs that examine underlying process by utilizing moderation can be effective. It is only when measurement of a proposed psychological process is easy and manipulation of it is difficult that designs that rely on mediational analyses should be preferred, and even in these situations careful consideration should be given to the limiting factors of such designs.

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Available from: Steven J Spencer, Aug 17, 2015
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    • "eded to examine the effects of behavioral disinhibition on private conformity as well as its effects on additional other - oriented reactions , including relevant cognitions , feelings , and other internalized responses . Although we believe that the effects of reminders of behavioral disinhibition are better studied using a chain of experiments ( Spencer et al . , 2005 ) , rather than by attempting to tap intervening variables that may disturb the effects of the reminders , we do want to note explicitly that future research is needed to examine relevant moderators and mediators of the processes suggested by our findings . For example , in earlier research we found that differences in social value orie"
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    • "If the effect of an independent on a dependent variable depends on the process, the latter should moderate the association between the independent and dependent variables. This experimental approach is the preferred way of establishing a causal chain when the process can be easily manipulated (Spencer et al., 2005). Because the motivation to act early can easily be manipulated , we chose to test our hypothesis using a moderationof-process design. "
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    • "On the other hand, these designs can strategically be difficult to employ. Although the use of experimental design to test for mediation is not new, only recently has this approach received more attention in the literature (Imai, Tingley, & Yamamoto, 2013; MacKinnon, 2008; Spencer et al., 2005). New developments in modern causal methods can be combined with experimental designs to achieve more evidence for mediated effects. "
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