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Journal of Organizational Behavior J. Organiz. Behav.

27, 10311056 (2006)


Published online 7 September 2006 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/job.406

Clarifying conditions and decision points for mediational type inferences in Organizational Behaviory
JOHN E. MATHIEU* AND SCOTT R. TAYLOR
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, U.S.A.

Summary

Although mediational designs and analyses are quite popular in Organizational Behavior research, there is much confusion surrounding the basis of causal inferences. We review theoretical, research design, and construct validity issues that are important for drawing inferences from mediational analyses. We then distinguish between indirect effects, and partial and full mediational hypotheses and outline decision points for drawing inferences of each type. An empirical illustration is provided using structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques, and we discuss extensions and directions for future research. Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Introduction
Over 20 years ago, Baron and Kenny (1986) and James and Brett (1984) published papers that have had a profound inuence on Organizational Behavior research and theory. Those authors advanced a theoretical foundation and analytic guidelines for drawing mediational inferencestheories, methods, and analyses that elucidate the underlying mechanisms linking antecedents and their consequences. At issue in this approach are research questions that seek to better understand how some antecedent (X) variable inuences some criterion (Y) variable, as transmitted through some mediating (M) variable. In this sense, mediators are explanatory variables that provide substantive interpretations of the underlying nature of an X ! Y relationship. Mediational designs have become ubiquitous in the organizational literature. Wood, Goodman, Cook, and Beckman (in press) reviewed ve leading management journals over the years 19812005 and identied 381 studies that tested mediational relationships. Of these, over 60 per cent of the studies followed prescriptions offered by Baron and Kenny (1986) or James and Brett (1984). However, the state of the art in mediational analysis is far from consistent. The fact that mediational designs have developed in different disciplines has only exacerbated the situation (Alwin & Hauser, 1975; Baron & Kenny, 1986; Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004; Holmbeck, 1997; James & Brett, 1984). Indeed,
* Correspondence to: John E. Mathieu, University of Connecticut, 2100 Hillside road, Unit 1041, Storrs, CT 06269-1041, U.S.A. E-mail: JMAthieu@business.uconn.edu y This article was published online on 7 September 2006. An error was subsequently identied and corrected by an Erratum notice that was published online only on 13 October 2006; DOI: 10.1002/job.426. This printed version incorporates the amendments identied by the Erratum notice.

Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Received 29 April 2006 Accepted 5 May 2006

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MacKinnon, Lockwood, Hoffman, West, and Sheets (2002) noted that Reecting their diverse disciplinary origins, the procedures [for testing mediating variables] vary in their conceptual basis, the null hypothesis being tested, their assumptions, and statistical methods of estimation (p. 84). Mediational designs come in a variety of forms that differ in terms of the nature of the variables involved in this X ! M ! Y chain. For example, Judd and Kenny (1981) discussed the inuence of psychological treatments on individuals behavior as mediated by their knowledge. Saks (1995) studied the inuence of training on newcomer adjustments, as mediated by their post-training self-efcacy. Mayer and Gavin (2005) considered how employees trust in their management inuenced their in-role performance and organizational citizenship behaviors, as mediated by their ability to focus their attention on work activities. Chen, Gully, Whiteman, and Kilcullen (2000) tested the inuence of individuals psychological traits on their behavior, as mediated by their psychological states. Claessens, Eerde, Rutte, and Roe (2004) considered the inuence of individuals planning behavior and work characteristics on their work outcomes such as strain, job satisfaction, and performance, as mediated by their perceived control of time. In all instances, mediational models advance an X ! M ! Y causal sequence, and seek to illustrate the mechanisms through which X and Y are related. However, there are important nuances in such designs that are often not appreciated, such as whether a mediator variable partially or full accounts for an X ! Y relationship, or whether it merely serves as a linking mechanism between variables. This important distinction along with other aspects of mediational designs constitutes our focus. Given the diversity of approaches and statistical techniques that currently exist for testing mediation, our aims for this paper are to: (1) revisit the research design and measurement preconditions that must be met in order for tests of mediational relations to be meaningful; (2) review denitions of mediators and related concepts, and in so doing distinguish between indirect effects, and partial and full mediational models; (3) distinguish the different statistical tests and decision points that apply, depending on what type of relationship is hypothesized; and (4) provide an empirical example that illustrates such differences. We conclude with a discussion of directions for future research and theory incorporating these distinctions. We note at the onset that many of the points we make below have been voiced previously. However, a quick perusal of the literature will reveal that some conventional bits of wisdom have been routinely ignored by many authors, and there remains a lack of consensus regarding how mediational hypotheses should be framed and tested (Wood et al., in press). Our hope is that this presentation can serve as a guide for those wishing to advance and to test mediational type relations.

Preconditions for Mediation Tests


The basic mediational design tests whether some antecedent condition X has a relationship with some criterion Y through some intervening mechanism M. In other words, mediational design advance an X ! M ! Y style causal chain. Later we will distinguish different types of such designs and argue that they advance different a priori hypotheses. Nevertheless, the important point to emphasize here is that mediational designs implicitly depict a causal X ! M ! Y chain. Whereas substantial development has occurred surrounding statistical tests of mediated relationships, far less attention has been devoted to conditions for strong causal inference in such designs. We submit that inferences of mediation are founded rst and foremost in terms of theory, research design, and the construct validity of measures employed, and second in terms of statistical evidence of relationships. The greatest challenges for deriving mediational inferences relates to the specication of causal order among variables, and the construct validity of the measures employed to operationalize X, M, and Y. In this sense, the
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preconditions for mediation tests are quite similar to those involved in specifying and testing causal (i.e., structural) models (see James, Mulaik, & Brett, 1982; Kenny, 1979).1

Causal sequence
Perhaps most fundamentally, inferences concerning mediational X ! M ! Y relationships hinge on the validity of the assertion that the relationships depicted unfold in that sequence (Stone-Romero & Rosopa, 2004). In other words, as with structural modeling techniques, multiple qualitatively different models can be t equally well to the same covariance matrix. Using the exact same data, one could as easily conrm a Y ! M ! X mediational chain as one can an X ! M ! Y sequence (MacCallum, Wegener, Uchino, & Fabrigar, 1993; Stezl, 1986; Stone-Romero & Rosopa, 2004). Despite passionate pleas to the contrary by Mitchell (1985) and others, a clear trend away from the use of experimental designs and a parallel increase in correlational designs has been evident in organizational research in the past two decades (Scandura & Williams, 2000). Indeed, commenting upon that current state of the literature, Spencer, Zanna, and Fong (2005, p. 845) lamented that this [correlational mediational] analysis strategy is overused and has perhaps been elevated as the gold standard of tests of psychological processes and may even be seen in some quarters as the only legitimate way to examine them. In short, no statistical analysis can unequivocally differentiate one causal sequence from another. Theorists and researchers must then rely on other means to justify the sequence of effects. The most valuable bases to advance such inference come from: (1) experimental design features; (2) temporal precedence; and (3) theoretical rationales. Experimental designs Naturally, experimental designs afford the strongest foundation for making causal inferences. Hallmarks of randomized experimental designs include random assignment of participants to conditions, control of extraneous variables, and experimenter control of the independent variable. Indeed, the philosophy of experimental designs is to isolate and test, as best as possible, X ! Y relationships from competing sources of inuence. In mediational designs, however, this focus is extended to a three phase X ! M ! Y causal sequence. The benets of conducting randomized experiments for testing such sequences has long been recognized. For example, Baron and Kenny (1986) described a design (based on Smith, 1982) whereby one introduces two experimental manipulations: (1) one presumed to inuence the mediator and not the criterion; and (2) one presumed to inuence the criterion yet not the mediator. Analyses of such designs would permit one to distinguish factors that exert inuence directly on a criterion versus those that are carried through an intervening mechanism. More recently, Stone-Romero and Rosopa (2004, p. 283) argued that the only way that one can make credible inferences about mediation is to perform two or more experiments. In the rst, the cause [i.e., X] is manipulated to determine its effect on the mediator [i.e., M]. In the second, the mediator [i.e., M] is manipulated to determine its effect on the dependent variable [i.e., Y]. Certainly such an approach affords a solid foundation for making causal inferences, but may not be feasible or even desirable in many applied circumstances. There may well be ethical, logistical, nancial, and other considerations that limit the extent to which researchers can employ randomized experimental designs.
1 We should further note that mediation inferences from such designs are predicated not only on the assumptions that X, M, and Y are causally ordered in that fashion, and their relationships are not attributable to other variables or processes, but also that they are related linearly (see Bollen, 1989; Kenny et al., 1998; Pearl, 2000 for further details). Whereas non-linear relationships, such as moderation, can be incorporated in mediational frameworks, that takes us beyond the current discussion (see Baron & Kenny, 1986; James & Brett, 1984; Muller et al., 2005).

Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Spencer et al. (2005) outlined circumstances when experiments offer desirable features for drawing mediational inferences, as well as instances when they may be less applicable. In short, however, randomized experimental designs offer the strongest basis for drawing causal inferences and should not be abandoned so prematurely by applied researchers (Mitchell, 1985; Scandura & Williams, 2000). Quasi-experimental designs also afford means by which causal order can be established (Cook & Campbell, 1979; Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002). Because researchers may not be able to randomly assign participants to conditions, the causal sequence of X ! M ! Y is vulnerable to any selection related threats to internal validity (Cook & Campbell, 1979; Shadish et al., 2002). To the extent that individuals status on a mediator or criterion variable may alter their likelihood of experiencing a treatment, the implied causal sequence may also be compromised. For example, consider a typical: training ! self-efcacy ! performance, mediational chain. If participation in training is voluntary, and more efcacious people are more likely to seek training, then the true sequence of events may well be self-efcacy ! training ! performance. If higher performing employees develop greater self-efcacy (Bandura, 1986), then the sequence could actually be performance ! efcacy ! training. If efcacy and performance levels remain fairly stable over time, one could easily misconstrue and nd substantial support for the training ! efcacy ! performance sequence when the very reverse is actually occurring. Researchers also have less control over contaminating variables in quasi-experiments as compared to randomized experiments. Whereas concerns about contaminating inuences and other threats to internal validity are extensive and well discussed elsewhere (see Cook & Campbell, 1979; Shadish et al., 2002; West, Biesanz, & Pitts, 2000), our primary focus here concerns threats to the implied causal sequence of effects in a mediational design. Revisiting our training example, a misspecication of causal sequence can emanate from the inuence of an omitted (sometimes referred to as unmeasured, third, contaminating, hidden, or confounding) variable. For example, if employees with greater seniority are rst eligible to receive training, and if they also tend to have higher self-efcacy, then there would be an illusionary training ! efcacy relationship unless seniority is also controlled. The issue here is that one must carefully consider what other variables might confound the relationships under consideration and account for their inuence when evaluating the specied causal sequence and variable relationships as outline above. Otherwise, such inuences might mask real effects (see MacKinnon, Krull, & Lockwood, 2000) or generate artifactual relationships. In summary, our discussion about the advantages of experimental and quasi-experimental designs converges on the larger issues of justifying the presumed causal order of variables and minimizing the inuence of unmeasured variables. Randomized experiments certainly provide the strongest case for minimizing the inuence of such potential effects but are difcult to implement. Quasi-experiments offer much as well, but are susceptible to a variety of threats to causal inferences. James (1980) and James et al. (1982) have well chronicled this issue. They submitted that an omitted variable poses a threat to causal inferences if it: (a) has a signicant unique inuence on an effect (i.e., mediator or criterion); (b) is stable; and (c) is related to at least one other predictor included in the model. In other words, in mediation analyses, omitted variables represent a signicant threat to validity of the X ! M relationship if they are related both to the antecedent and to the mediator, and have a unique inuence on the mediator. Moreover, omitted variables represent a signicant threat to inferences involving the prediction of the criterion, if they have a unique inuence on the outcome variable and either the antecedent or mediator. Temporal precedence A mediational framework proposes that the antecedent preceded the mediator, which in turn preceded the criterion. Implicitly, therefore, mediational designs advance a time-based model of events whereby
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X occurs before M which in turn occurs before Y. To the extent that the measures and operations employed to operationalize variables in a study are aligned with that sequence, one can have more condence that the chain of relationships is not compromised. Let us emphasize one point here: it is the temporal relationships of the underlying phenomena that are at issue, not necessarily the timing of measurements. Certainly, to the extent that the two different sequences are aligned is of concern. However, the literature is replete with designs whereby researchers collect a set of observations and then correlate variables with some record of last years performance, whether that was derived from performance appraisals, performance outputs, sales, or some nancial index. In effect, this reverses the presumed sequence of events and more likely models Y ! X ! M than it does X ! M ! Y. Simply assessing a presumed antecedent before measuring a presumed mediator and criterion in no way assures that the true underlying causal order is consistent with the order of measurement (James et al., 1982; Kenny, 1979). Indeed the synchronization of measurement timing and the development of phenomena over time are critical to the basis of causal inferences (Mitchell & James, 2001). Given that X ! M ! Y relationships are presumed to unfold over time, it begs the question of how long does it take each variable to develop and to change? Consider a work redesign effort intended to empower employees and thereby to enhance their work motivation with the aim of increasing customer satisfaction. How long does it take to establish the new work design? Over what duration should we track employees subsequent motivation? If employees are indeed more motivated to perform, how long will it take for customers to notice and for them to become more satised? These questions are not easy to answer, and in few instances would phenomena readily align with the 3 or 6 month intervals that organizations are willing to tolerate, even if they are open to multiple data collections. Even worse, consider the fact that employee motivations (M) in this instance are likely to begin changing before the work redesign (X) intervention is fully entrenched. And, the appropriate window for sampling customer reactions may vary widely depending on their frequency of encounters with employees and other factors. In sum, the guiding point here is that the passage of time between the assessment of X, M, and Y helps to further strengthen inferences about the causal sequence. To the extent that such assessments are aligned with the underlying developmental phenomena being studied will strengthen causal inferences. Theoretical guidance Theoretical frameworks usually prescribe a distinct ordering of variables. In fact, it is a hallmark of good theories that they articulate the how and why variables are ordered in a particular way (e.g., Sutton & Staw, 1995; Whetten, 1989). This is perhaps the only basis for advancing a particular causal order in non-experimental studies with simultaneous measurement of the antecedent, mediator, and criterion variables (i.e., classic cross-sectional designs). For example, Fishbein and Aijzens (1975) Theory of Reasoned Action has long posited that individuals attitudes give rise to intentions, which in turn inuence their actual behaviors. This theoretical foundation has been applied extensively to the study of employees absence and turnover behaviors (Hom & Kinicki, 2001; Tett & Meyer, 1993). The job characteristics model argues that work design features give rise to psychological states which in turn inuence individuals reactions (e.g., satisfaction) and behaviors (Hackman & Oldham, 1980). Mathieu (1991) used Lewinian Field Theory (Lewin, 1943) to submit that variables more psychologically removed from oneself (i.e., distal effects such as perceptions of work characteristics), would inuence more psychologically proximal variables (e.g., role states) and thereby affect work attitudes (e.g., satisfaction, organizational commitment). Absent an experimental or longitudinal design, one might test a mediational model on the basis of the theoretical ordering of variables. Naturally the case would be stronger if one could also leverage features from a design perspective, but clearly the theory must articulate a certain causal sequence. And, in cross-sectional studies one often has little else to justify any particular order.
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To summarize, the specication of the causal order of variables is absolutely critical to inferences about mediational relationships. This is rst and foremost a theoretical exercise. Research design features in terms of experimental control and temporal precedence provide additional justication for particular sequences. Notably, there is no panacea for justifying causal sequence. Learned scholars differ on what they believe is sufcient grounds upon which to claim causal order. On one extreme, Stone-Romero and Rosopa (2004) submitted that anything short of a randomized experiment is insufcient to claim justied causal order. Their position is tests of mediation models that are based upon data from non-experimental studies have little or no capacity to serve as a basis for valid inferences about mediation (Stone-Romero & Rosopa, 2004; p. 250). On the other extreme, a perusal of journal articles will quickly reveal numerous instances of authors claiming causal connections from mediational analyses of cross-sectional data collected in a single survey as related to last years performance indices. Reasonable people can disagree, and we personally believe that both of the above extreme positions are probably overstated. In any case, to the extent that ones work is: (a) grounded in strong theory; (b) employs true or quasi-experimental designs; and (c) assesses variables over time in the proper sequence and intervals, condence in the causal sequence of variables in a particular model is enhanced.

Measurement related issues


As with any research investigation, the construct validity of measures employed are of concern in tests of mediation. Schwab (1980) submitted Construct validity is dened as representing the correspondence between a construct (conceptual denition of a variable) and the operational procedure to measure or manipulate that construct (pp. 56). Of note in particular for mediational analyses, attention should be directed at the convergent and discriminant validity of measures. Convergent validity Convergent validity essentially concerns the extent to which different measures of the same construct hold together or converge on the intended construct. Usually convergent validity is assessed using techniques such as factor analyses and other approaches that evaluate how well different observations relate to a latent variable. Naturally, this concept is related to reliability concepts such as internal consistency estimates, alternative forms/methods, interrater, or test-retest. Depending on the nature of the constructs involved in the X ! M ! Y relationship, any combination of reliability estimates may be applicable (see Nunnally, 1978). Of note for the present discussion is the fact that measurement unreliability, particularly that of the mediator, can bias mediational analyses. As Hoyle and Kenny (1999) have demonstrated, assuming all positive paths, to the extent that a mediator is measured with less than perfect reliability, the M ! Y relationship would likely be underestimated, whereas the X ! Y would likely be overestimated when the antecedent and mediator are considered simultaneously. Whereas latent variable modeling can help to compensate for measurement shortcomings, the technique is certainly not a panacea. Consequently, the message here is clear: it is critical to use reliable measures when testing mediation, particularly when it comes to the mediator variable. Discriminant validity Discriminant validity of measures is another concern for all research investigations, yet particularly for tests of mediation. Discriminant validity refers to the extent to which measures of different constructs are empirically and theoretically distinguishable. Note that discriminant validity must be gauged in the context of the larger nomological network within which the relationships being considered are believed to reside. Discriminant validity does not imply that measures of different constructs are uncorrelated;
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indeed if that were the case there would be no mediational covariance to be modeled. The issue is whether measures of different variables are so highly correlated as to raise questions about whether they are assessing different constructs. If measures of an antecedent variable and a mediator are not sufciently distinguishable, then they are in effect tapping the same underlying domain. Consequently, any attempt to parse their independent contributions to a criterion variable will be futile. For example, if X and M fail to evidence discriminant validity, any sequential analysis of their substantive relationship will conclude that the mediator carries the inuence of X on Y. The same conclusion would follow in situations where the mediator and criterion and not distinguishable. This problem is akin to the notion of multi-collinearity between either the X and M variables, or between the M and Y variables. Consequently, it is incumbent on researchers to demonstrate that their measures of X, M, and Y evidence acceptable discriminant validity before any mediational tests are justied. This may be done in a variety of fashions ranging from exploratory factor analyses to more powerful multi-trait, multi-method approaches, and conrmatory factor analyses. In sum, a lack of discriminant validity between either X and M, or between M and Y, will lead to an illusionary mediational relationship that amounts to nothing more than correlating some measure of a construct with another measure of the same construct.

Distinguishing indirect and mediating relationships


Up to this point we have employed the term mediating variable in a very general sense. Unfortunately, different authors dene mediation in many different ways and often use terms such as indirect effects, intervening variables, intermediate endpoint, and so forth interchangeably with mediators. (see MacKinnon et al., 2002 for a review). Further, although mediational models are pervasive in applied research and elsewhere, there is some debate concerning the requisite statistical evidence for drawing inferences about mediation (cf., Baron & Kenny, 1986; Collins, Graham, & Flaherty, 1998; Frazier et al, 2004; Holmbeck, 1997; James & Brett, 1984; James, Mulaik, & Brett, 2006; Kenny, Kashy, & Bolger, 1998; MacKinnon, et al., 2000, 2002; Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Shrout & Bolger, 2002). We believe that root causes of such controversies lie in differences of opinion regarding: (1) denitions of mediators and related concepts; (2) the necessity of rst demonstrating a signicant total X ! Y relationship; and (3) the appropriate base model for tests of different forms of mediation. The rst two points of contention are closely intertwined. Some have submitted that a precondition for tests of mediation is that the antecedent must exhibit a signicant total relationship with a criterion when considered alone (i.e., X ! Y, see Baron & Kenny, 1986; Judd & Kenny, 1981; Preacher & Hayes, 2004). Others have relaxed this precondition, and argued that mediation inferences are justied if the indirect effect carried by the X ! M and M ! Y paths is signicant (e.g., Kenny, et al., 1998; MacKinnon et al., 2002). Advocates of this latter view often equate mediator variables with indirect effects (e.g., Alwin & Hauser, 1975; Bollen, 1987; MacKinnon et al., 2002). However, there is an important distinction between indirect and mediator variables. For example, MacKinnon et al. (2002, p. 83) suggested that An intervening variable (Mediator) transmits the effect of an independent variable to a dependent variable [emphasis added]. In contrast, Baron and Kenny (1986, p. 176) submitted that a given variable may be said to function as a mediator to the extent that it accounts for the relation between the predictor and the criterion [emphasis added]. Preacher and Hayes (2004, p.719) explicitly drew a distinction between the two concepts and argued that mediation is a special, more restrictive, type of intervening relationship. A conclusion that a mediation effect is present implies that the total effect X ! Y was present initially. There is no such assumption in the assessment of indirect effects. It is quite possible to nd
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that an indirect effect is signicant even when there is no evidence for a signicant total effect. Whether or not the effect also represents mediation should be judged through examination of the total effect. In other words, mediator variables are explanatory mechanisms that shed light on the nature of the relationship that exists between two variables. If no such relationship exists, then there is nothing to be mediated. While a chain of events whereby X ! M and M ! Y may well be of interest, along with the extent to which variance in Y can be attributed to the indirect effect of X, we submit that sequence represents a qualitatively different phenomenon than mediation. We prefer to label such relationships as indirect effects. We readily acknowledge that there is another reason why some researchers (e.g., MacKinnon et al., 2000) advocate dropping the X ! Y precondition for mediational inferences. This second position centers around the fact that confounding, suppression, and interactive effects could attenuate overall X ! Y relationships (see MacKinnon et al., 2000).2 Similarly, others have argued that competing effects might mitigate total X ! Y relationships, when opposite signed direct and indirect effects are present (e.g., when X and M are both positively related to Y, yet X and M are negatively related). Notably, the common thread through all of these positions is that some other variable, including perhaps the mediator, serves to contaminate the total X ! Y relationship when viewed in isolation. In other words, the opposite signs and mediator as a suppressor arguments both suggest that the true underlying model is a partially mediated one whereby the direct effect of X ! Y can only be interpreted in the context of a model that also includes the M ! Y path. This raises a central point about the importance of the base model that one hypothesizes. James et al. (2006) underscored the importance of the base model that one adopts for tests of mediation. In the case of full mediation, M is hypothesized to fully account for the signicant total effect of X ! Y. In other words, the direct effect of X ! Y is no longer signicant once M ! Y has been included. In contrast, in the case of partial mediation, M is believed to account for a signicant portion of the total X ! Y, but a signicant direct effect also remains. In other words, both M ! Y and X ! Y are signicant when considered simultaneously. Of course, both partial and full mediation models are predicated on a signicant X ! M relationship. James et al. (2006) and Shrout and Bolger (2002) noted that full and partial mediational inferences rely on different types of statistical tests. Consequently, which model one hypothesizes may lead to different conclusions in many instances. James et al. (2006) noted that the Baron and Kenny (1986) approach implicitly advocates partial mediation as the base model for tests of mediation. Alternatively, James and Brett (1984), and James et al. (2006) prefer the axiom of parsimony and advocate the full mediation base model. All agreed that substantive reasoning should guide which is adopted in any given circumstance; but the important point is that the a priori model that one advances has important implications for conrmatory and disconrming statistical evidence. We extend this logic and submit that the specication of ones hypothesized base model has implications for indirect effects along with partial and full mediation. Moreover, such relations can be examined in the context of larger structural models where the inuences of other variables of interest are also considered. Nevertheless, the evidential basis for drawing inferences of each type remains consistent and is outlined below. In summary, we believe that there are different types of relationships that fall under the general heading of intervening effects. Accordingly, we use the term intervening effects to describe any type of
2 Concerns about the inuence of interactive or confounding variables imply the presence of non-linear relationships which violates an assumption of testing indirect or mediated relations, unless one is also hypothesizing moderation (see Footnote 1). Further, extraneous, omitted, or 3rd variables represent specication errors that always must be accounted for, through theoretical, methodological, or empirical means, whenever a causal sequence of effects is advanced (James et al., 1982; Stone-Romero & Rosopa, 2004). We elaborate more fully on this and related points below.

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linking mechanism M that ties an antecedent with a criterion. Indirect effects are a special form of intervening effect whereby X and Y are not related directly (i.e., are uncorrelated), but they are indirectly related through signicant relationships with a linking mechanism. In contrast, mediation refers to instances where the signicant total relationship that exists between an antecedent and a criterion, is accounted for in part (partial mediation) or completely (full mediation) by a mediator variable.

Estimation Guidelines and Decision Rules


We submit that different statistical rules of evidence apply depending on whether one anticipates an indirect effect versus partial or full mediation. We argue that researchers are obliged to specify, a priori, which type of intervening process that they anticipate. Importantly, the nature of the hypothesized relationship leads to different sources of conrmatory and disconrming evidence. In this sense, what we are advocating is an approach that is similar to that of structural equation modeling (SEM). Accordingly, a failure to reject a hypothesized model hinges on two types of tests: (1) conrmation of hypothesized relations (i.e., relationships that were hypothesized to exist are indeed signicant and in the hypothesized directions); and (2) disconrmation of non-hypothesized paths (i.e., sufcient model t indices, which indicate that the paths that were hypothesized to be absent are indeed not signicant). Moreover, because different competing models can be t to the same data, we advocate contrasting ones hypothesized model against viable alternative models (see Anderson & Gerbing, 1988, for a good background on this general approach). Figure 1 presents three alternative models containing intervening effects and their respective parameters. In this sense, the indirect effects model is the most constrained or parsimonious, as it implies that the only signicant relationships observed are the combined effect (bmx bym). This implies that both the X ! M (bmx) and M ! Y (bym) paths are signicant, although the combined effect is best tested using approaches such as the Sobel test (see MacKinnon et al., 2002; Shrout & Bolger,
Indirect Effect
mx

X
Full Mediation
mx

ym

ym

M
yx

Partial Mediation
mx ym.x

M
yx.m

Figure 1. Alternative intervening models Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 27, 10311056 (2006)

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2002 for details). Importantly, an indirect effect hypothesis also implicitly suggests that the total X ! Y relationship (byx) is absent. The full mediation model is the next most parsimonious. This model also includes signicant X ! M (bmx) and M ! Y (bym) paths. However, the dashed line from X ! Y in this model is meant to imply a signicant total X ! Y (byx) relationship that becomes non-signicant when M ! Y (bym) is included. In other words, a hypothesis of full mediation also requires a non-signicant byx.m effect. Last, the partial mediation model is the least parsimonious and implies that X ! M (bmx), as well as both M ! Y and X ! Y will be signicant when considered simultaneously (bym.x and byx.m, respectively). The three panels of Figure 2 specify sequences of effects to be considered in order for each of the hypothesized models to be supported. Later we will describe analytic techniques which provide information regarding these effects. The columns of rectangles in Figure 2 depicts the various conditions that must hold for each model to be accepted, whereas the branches containing circles depict guided alternative hypotheses that might be considered if a hypothesized condition is disconrmed. Notably, by accepted models we mean that the data fail to reject the hypothesized model. As is always the case, this does not mean that a hypothesized model has been proven; simply that it is not inconsistent with the data. Similarly, once any facet of a hypothesized model is rejected, one enters an exploratory mode as alternative models are considered. Consequently, any conclusions that are derived from such searches are tentative at best and need to be validated on a new sample.

Indirect effects
As shown in Panel 1 of Figure 2, the pivotal test of the indirect model is simply (bmx bym) using methods such as the Sobel (1982) test or more sophisticated approaches employing bootstrapping techniques (see, MacKinnon et al., 2002; Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Shrout & Bolger, 2002). If such a test is not signicant, then one should reject the indirect effect hypothesis and consider viable alternatives. A more parsimonious alternative in such instances would be to consider simply a direct

Figure 2. Decision tree for evidence supporting different intervening effects Copyright # 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. J. Organiz. Behav. 27, 10311056 (2006)

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X ! Y (byx) relationship. Moreover, even if the indirect effect was signicant, researchers should consider whether alternative models such as a partially or fully mediated model are suggested by the data. For example, if the overall X ! Y relationship was signicant (byx), and X does not contribute to the prediction of Y once M has been considered (byx.m), then the hypothesis of an indirect effect would be rejected in lieu of an alternative model of full mediation. This approach echoes our earlier comments about researchers casual dismissal of the precondition of a total X ! Y effect for tests of mediation. Our reading of the literature suggests that there are very few instances where researchers actually hypothesized a priori that the total X ! Y relationship would be non-signicant. Rather, it appears as though many evoke a waiver of the X ! Y precondition when it fails to materialize in their data, and then simply proceed to test the signicance of the indirect effect. This has occurred even when there was no evidence to suggest suppression or counter-acting signs of direct and indirect effects. Such tactics, in our opinion, moves one away from conrmatory hypothesis testing and into the exploratory realm. In summary, we submit that the presence of a signicant total X ! Y relationship leads to the rejection of a hypothesis of an indirect effect and should trigger a consideration of an alternative partial mediation hypothesis (if suppression or counter-acting effects are suspected), and thereby perhaps, to a full mediation explanation.

Full mediation
As depicted in the second panel of Figure 2, a hypothesis of full mediation is predicated on a signicant total X ! Y (byx) relationship. Failing that, one might consider an alternative hypothesis of an indirect effect. If suppression is evident, then one might consider the alternative hypothesis of a partially mediated relationship. Assuming the total effect was present, one proceeds to test the X ! M (bmx) and M ! Y (bym) relationships. If either fails to exist, then the evidence is consistent with the alternative hypothesis of a direct effect. Moreover, full mediation depends on the non-signicance of direct effect of X ! Y when the M ! Y path is included (i.e., a non-signicant byx.m). If the direct X ! Y path is signicant in this context, then the hypothesis of full mediation should be rejected and the researcher should consider the alternative hypothesis of partial mediation. We should note that there may be cases where adding the byx.m parameter attenuates the M ! Y relationship (bym.x) to a non-signicant level. If the X ! Y relationship (byx.m) is signicant in such an instance, then the full mediational hypothesis should be rejected in lieu of an alternative hypothesis of a direct effect. Alternatively, if neither byx.m or bym.x are signicant, and the previous conditions were satised, then the data are consistent with the hypothesis of full mediation. This follows from the fact that the relevant M ! Y parameter for the full mediation hypothesis is bym not bym.x (see James et al., 2006).

Partial mediation
A partial mediation hypothesis, as shown in Panel 3 of Figure 1, is the least constrained and rests on the signicance of all three paths: X ! M (bmx) and both X ! Y (byx.m) and M ! Y (bym.x) when considered simultaneously. Given the presumed causal order of variables, if the X ! Y (byx.m) path is not signicant in this model, then the hypothesis of partial mediation should be rejected and one should, perhaps, consider an alternative hypothesis of full mediation. Alternatively, if the X ! M (bmx) or the M ! Y (bym.x) paths are not signicant, then the partial mediation hypothesis should be rejected in lieu of the alternative hypothesis of simply a direct effect. The partial mediation hypothesis would only be supported if all three hypothesized paths are signicant.
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Caveats
We should highlight two other related concerns for the tests outlined above. First, our various decision points pivot on tests of statistical signicance, just as any SEM nested model comparisons do (see Anderson & Gerbing, 1988). Nevertheless, tests of statistical signicance must be considered in light of related issues such as sample size and measurement reliability (Hoyle & Kenny, 1999). In other words, signicance tests must be tempered by considerations of power and effect size estimates. Enormous sample sizes can yield statistically signicant results that are virtually meaningless in practice and also easily lead to the rejection of full mediation hypotheses. Alternatively, small sample sizes can easily lead to inferences of full mediation in instances where there is not sufcient power to adequately test for partial mediation. The summary point is that sufcient power must exist to adequately test various relationships, and researchers should balance conclusions about statistical signicance with those about practical signicance. A second, and related caveat, concerns the relative power of different tests. MacKinnon et al. (2002) have argued that a direct test of intervening effects (bmx bym) has greater power as compared to causal steps approaches such as those outlined by Baron and Kenny (1986). However, recall that MacKinnon et al. (2002) equated indirect effects with mediation, and argued that overall, the step requiring a signicant total effect of X on Y led to the most Type II errors, (p. 96). In other words, the distinguishing feature between indirect and mediator relations is what accounts for the fact that tests of the latter are more conservative than the former. The fact that mediators rely on the presence of a total direct effect represents a greater statistical burden, however, so we believe that the corresponding lower power is totally appropriate. In other words, the combined tests of indirect effects appear to have greater statistical power simply as a consequence of comparing them with qualitatively different types of relationshipsnamely, mediation.

Summary
Tests of intervening effects are predicated on the assumption that the causal sequence of variables is sufciently justied and the measures employed to represent the constructs possess sufcient construct validity. While not particularly controversial, we believe these preconditions are often overlooked and should be afforded more attention by scholars. Less clarity surrounds the rules of evidence for mediational type inferences and associated statistical tests. A key to most of this confusion is the fact that X ! M ! Y models may represent full mediation, partial mediation, or indirect effectsall of which are conrmed or disconrmed in slightly different ways. We submit that researchers are obliged to a priori specify the nature of the relationship(s) that they anticipate, and then to conduct the corresponding tests to demonstrate both conrmatory and disconrming evidence. To better illustrate how this works in practice, we offer the following example.

Empirical Illustration
The purpose of this illustration is to demonstrate the steps and evidential basis involved in testing indirect effects, and partial and fully mediated relationships. Our example focuses on the concept of
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Figure 3. Hypothesized intervening effects

self-efcacy as a mediator of the inuences of individual differences and situational cues on individuals performance and is illustrated in Figure 3. Self-efcacy is dened as peoples judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances (Bandura, 1986, p. 391). The positive relationship between self-efcacy and performance has been demonstrated time and again and summarized in narrative reviews (e.g., Bandura & Locke, 2003) and in meta-analyses (e.g., Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Hence, there is abundant support for viewing it as an inuence on performance. Bandura (1977) has long theorized that self-efcacy is determined mostly by the cognitive appraisal and integration of information cues. Two of the most inuential of such cues are enactive mastery and vicarious experience. Enactive mastery develops through repeated performance accomplishments in the same or similar situations. In other words, to the extent that individuals have performed well in a particular situation in the past, it is reasonable to expect that their efcacy expectations will be higher. Further, naturally one would expect that individuals past performance would correlate positively with their future performance for reasons other than simply their efcacy expectations (e.g., because ability inuences both). Consequently, as depicted in Figure 3, we would hypothesize that self-efcacy would partially mediate the relationship between previous (i.e., baseline) performance and subsequent performance. Vicarious experience is gained through direct observation or information about how well others have performed in a situation. However, there is no reason to expect that vicarious experience would inuence individuals performance unless they internalized such information in terms of their efcacy expectations. Consequently, we hypothesized that self-efcacy would fully mediate the relationship between normative information and individuals performance. Indeed, previous research has been consistent with this expectation (e.g., Mathieu & Button, 1992; Weiss, Suckow, & Rakestraw, 1999). Finally, recent theorizing and research have argued that relatively stable individual differences may inuence efcacy expectations. For example, Phillips and Gully (1997) found support for a positive correlation between individuals learning goal orientation and their self-efcacy in an academic setting. Individuals who are high on learning goal-orientation strive to understand something new or to increase their level of competence in a given activity (Button, Mathieu, & Zajac, 1996). Whereas a learning goal orientation may contribute directly to performance, it is more likely to help shape specic task-related perceptions such as self-efcacy. Although some previous researchers have found results that are consistent with a hypothesis of full mediation (e.g., Phillips & Gully, 1997), others have found relationships more consistent with an indirect effect inference (e.g., Chen et al., 2000; Diefendorff, 2004; Potosky & Ramakrishna, 2002). Which interpretation is most appropriate is debatable. However, for present illustration purposes, we hypothesized that learning goal orientation would exhibit a positive indirect effect with performance via self-efcacy.
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Method
Participants
Two hundred and one undergraduates were recruited from introductory psychology courses at a large northeastern University and received extra credit toward their course grade for participation. The sample was 61 per cent female, and their average age was 18.65 (SD 1.97). Participants were invited to attend experimental sessions where they were randomly assigned to one of the three normative information conditions (n 67 per condition) as described below.

Task and procedure


The task was identical to the one used by Mathieu and Button (1992). It involved the creation of words containing three or more letters drawn from a list of 10 letters: four vowels (worth 1 point each), two consonants (worth 1 point each), and four additional consonants worth 2, 3, 4, and 10 points, respectively. The point values associated with each letter correspond to those used in the game Scrabble. The object of the task was to score as many points as possible during a 10-minutes session by forming words containing three or more letters from the list provided, excluding proper nouns and slang. Points were awarded according to the point values associated with letters used in each word generated. Upon arrival at the experimental session, participants completed an informed consent form and a survey that contained demographic items and a measure of learning goal orientation from Button et al. (1996). Once the survey was completed, the experimental task was explained to participants and they completed a 5-minutes practice exercise. They then calculated their own score on the practice exercise and were told that they would perform a 10-minutes experimental trial after answering some survey questions. The rst page of the survey instrument presented the normative information manipulation using the following statement. In previous testing we have found that students like you score about 115 [175, 235] points on the task you are about to complete [emphasis in instructions]. The middle value corresponded to pilot subjects average performance, whereas the low- and high-point values were set one standard deviation from the mean, based on pilot data. They then completed several survey items that included their self-efcacy and a manipulation check, and then completed the 10-minutes task, were debriefed and given their extra credit slips, and dismissed.

Measures
Manipulation check A manipulation check identical to that used by Mathieu and Button (1992) was administered after the survey items. It asked participants how many points they thought most people would score on the task they were about to complete. As anticipated, their responses differed signicantly across the normative information conditions (F(2,194) 189.16, p < 0.001) and all means differed signicantly from each other in the anticipated fashion. Performance Participants practice and task performances were simply the total number of points they earned during each of the timed periods. Individuals scored their own practice trail in order to provide clear and
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immediate feedback. Their calculations were later checked by a coder, blind to manipulated normative information, and found to be highly accurate. Self-efcacy Self-efcacy was assessed using a nine-item graduated scale identical to that employed by Mathieu and Button (1992). The 9-point scale spanned two standard deviations above and below the mean point obtained in the pilot sessions. Participants rated the extent to which they believed that they could score at least each of the point values using a Likert-type 7-point scale, ranging from 1 (virtually no possibility) through 4 (about a 50/50 chance) to 7 (complete certainty). Thus, higher scores represent greater levels of self-efcacy (a 0.95). We created three parcels (i.e., subscales) for use in the SEM analysis by averaging the highest, lowest, and midpoint rating to form one indicator, the next highest, lowest, and middle value to form a second, and the remaining three ratings to form a third.3 Learning goal orientation Learning goal orientation was assessed using six items from Button et al. (1996). An example item is I prefer to work on tasks that force me to learn new things. Participants responded to each item using a 17 agreement scale with higher values representing greater learning orientation (a 0.77). We also created three parcels for this measure, by rst tting them to a single factor model and then averaging the highest and lowest loading items to form one composite, and so forth as described above.

Analytic overview
We employed Anderson and Gerbings (1988) two-step SEM strategy to test the model depicted in Figure 1 using LISREL 8.54 (Joreskog, Sorbom, du Toit, & du Toit, 2000). SEM techniques have long been advocated as preferable to regression techniques for testing mediational relationships because they permit one to model both measurement and structural relationships and yield overall t indices (cf., Baron & Kenny, 1986; James & Brett, 1984; James et al., 2006; Kenny et al., 1998). Accordingly, we rst t a conrmatory factor analytic (CFA) measurement model followed by a series of structural models testing our hypothesized relationships. In order to gauge model t, we report the Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMSR), Goodness of Fit index (GFI; Joreskog et al., 2000), and the Comparative Fit Index (CFI; Bentler, 1990). We also report x2 values which provide a statistical basis for comparing the relative t of nested models. SRMSR is a measure of the standardized difference between the observed covariance and predicted covariance. Usually, SRMSR values 0.08 are considered a relatively good t for the model, and values 0.10 considered fair (Browne & Cudeck, 1989). The CFI is an incremental t index that contrasts the t of a hypothesized SEM model against a baseline (uncorrelated indicators) model. Historically, SEM model incremental t indices such as GFI and CFI < 0.90 have been considered wanting and likely to be improved substantially. More recently, however, Hu and Bentler (1999) proposed that use of combined cutoffs such as CFI $ ! 0.95 and SRMSR $ 0.08 results in better balance of rejection rates for misspecied models under different conditions. In contrast, Marsh, Kit-Tai, and Wen (2004), Beauducel and Wittmann (2005), Fan and Sivo (2005) illustrated that deciding on the most appropriate index and cutoff is a complex function of the nature of model
3 This parceling approach helps to reduce the ratio of estimated parameters to sample size in SEM analyses (Hagtvet & Nasser, 2004; Hall, Snell, & Foust, 1999; Landis, Beal, & Tesluk, 2000). It is also true that graduated self-efcacy items such as these yield notoriously positively skewed distributions for the highest levels rated and negatively skewed distributions for the lowest levels rated. Combining the ratings in this fashion yields parcels that better fulll the normal distribution assumptions of SEM indicators.

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misspecications, sample sizes, balances between Type I and Type II tradeoffs, and a host of other factors. All authors also emphasized that the acceptability of models rests heavily on the extent to which hypothesized parameters are signicant and in the anticipated directions, as well as issues such as parsimony. Given such controversy and the complexity of issues surrounding cutoff values for model t indices, along with our study characteristics, we will consider models with CFI values <0.90 and SRMSR values >0.10 as decient, those with CFI ! 0.90 to <0.95 and SRMSR > 0.08 to 0.10 ranges as acceptable, and ones with CFI ! 0.95 and SRMSR < 0.08 ranges as excellent.

Results
Conrmatory factor analysis model
Descriptive statistics and variable correlations are presented in Table 1. Table 2 presents a summary of the t indices for the various models that we tested. Using the covariance matrix, we estimated a vefactor CFA model. In effect, this model amounts to testing the discriminant validity of three selfefcacy and three learning goal orientation parcels, as the remaining three latent variables (i.e., normative information manipulation, baseline, and nal performance) were set equal to their observed scores. The ve-factor CFA evidenced excellent t indices [x2(20) 19.04, n.s.; GFI 0.98; CFI 1.00; SRMSR 0.019] with all six parcels exhibiting signicant (p < 0.05) relationships with their intended latent variable. To further test the discriminant validity of the self-efcacy and learning goal orientation measures, we t a four-factor CFA model by constraining their latent variables to unity. This four-factor model, which is nested in the ve-factor model, exhibited a decient and signicantly worse model t [Dx2 (1) 27.24, p < 0.001; x2(21) 46.28, p < 0.01; GFI 0.95; CFI 0.98; SRMSR 0.11]. Finally, we t a null latent CFA model (which constrains the correlations among the latent variables to zero) to the data [x2(30) 157.42, p < 0.001; GFI 0.85; CFI 0.89; SRMSR 0.19] and obtained a signicantly worse t [Dx2(10) 138.38, p < 0.001] as compared to the ve-factor model.
Table 1. Variable descriptive statistics and correlations LLGO Variables 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
a

LSE 5 0.50 0.16 0.39 0.18 0.55 0.17 0.14 0.15

Mean 69.93 2.00 84.55 5.36 5.48 5.95 5.07 4.94 5.46

SD 31.26 0.82 32.31 0.93 0.79 0.70 1.04 1.17 1.19

1 0.07 0.49 0.04 0.06 0.06 0.47 0.50 0.49

2 0.07 0.16 0.02 0.08 0.01 0.17 0.16 0.14

3 0.49 0.16 0.05 0.04 0.04 0.38 0.38 0.39

4 0.08 0.05 0.03 0.53 0.44 0.09 0.09 0.09

Baseline performance Normative informationa Performance LGO-1 LGO-2 LGO-3 Self-efcacy-1 Self-efcacy-2 Self-efcacy-3

0.12 0.11 0.12

0.96 0.91

0.92

p < 0.05. Coded: 1 Low, 2 Moderate, 3 High. Notes: Lower diagonal contains indicator correlations, upper diagonal contains latent variable correlations. LLGO Latent learning goal orientation, LSE Latent self-efcacy N 201.

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Table 2. Summary of structural equation modeling analyses Fit indices Models Saturated model Learning goal direct Normative informationa direct Baseline performance direct No directs Only directs Null latent
p < 0.01. Coded: 1 Low, 2 Moderate, 3 High. Notes: N 201.
a

DF 20 22 22 22 23 24 30

x2 19.04 48.79 49.20 21.90 51.32 96.36 157.42

GFI 0.98 0.95 0.95 0.98 0.95 0.92 0.85

CFI 1.00 0.98 0.98 1.00 0.98 0.94 0.89

SRMSR 0.019 0.047 0.050 0.024 0.052 0.170 0.190

Collectively, these results indicate that the measurement properties t quite well and there is sufcient covariance among the latent variables to warrant examining the different intervening effects. We should also highlight that the t of the ve-factor CFA is equivalent to a saturated structural modelor one that includes direct paths from all antecedents to both the mediator (i.e., self-efcacy) and to the criterion (i.e., performance). This saturated model provides a useful comparison against which to gauge the t of other models.

Structural models
Below we t different structural models to test the three different types of intervening effects that were hypothesized. In effect, we isolate the direct and indirect effects for each of the three antecedents. However, we rst t only directs and no directs models to serve as additional bases of comparison. The only directs model estimates direct relationships from all antecedents to performance, with no paths leading to or stemming from the self-efcacy mediator (although self-efcacy remains as a latent variable in the model). This model exhibited decient t indices [x2(24) 96.36, p < 0.001; GFI 0.92; CFI 0.94; SRMSR 0.170] and differed signicantly from the CFA model [Dx2(4) 77.32, p < 0.001]. This indicates that at least one of the antecedents has a signicant direct effect with self-efcacy, or efcacy related signicantly with performance. In other words, these results attest to the importance of the mediator variable. In the context of this model, both normative information (byx 0.12, p < 0.05) and baseline performance (byx 0.48, p < 0.01) related signicantly to performance, whereas learning goal orientation (byx 0.02, n.s.) did not. These ndings are consistent with the anticipated forms of intervening effects. The no direct effects model estimated paths from each of the antecedents to self-efcacy, and from efcacy to performance, but contained no direct effects from the antecedents to performance. This model exhibited acceptable t indices [x2(23) 51.32, p < 0.01; GFI 0.95; CFI 0.98; SRMSR 0.052] but did differ signicantly from the CFA model [Dx2(3) 32.28, p < 0.001]. This lack of t indicates that one or more of the antecedents has a signicant direct effect with performance. In the context of this model, all three antecedents related signicantly with self-efcacy (learning goal orientation bmx 0.22, p < 0.05; normative information bmx 0.14, p < 0.05; and baseline performance bmx 0.51, p < 0.01), and self-efcacy exhibited a signicant relationship with performance (bym 0.19, p < 0.05). Therefore, the X ! M relationship (bmx) is evident for all three intervening effects, and the M ! Y relationship holds, at least when considered alone. Notably, selfefcacy retained its signicant relationship with performance in all models that we examined. In
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addition, the indirect effects of all the antecedents to performance via self-efcacy (bmx bym) were signicant in this model: learning goal orientation: b 0.09, Sobel 4.70, SE 1.69, p < 0.05; normative information b 0.05, Sobel 2.14, SE 0.99, p < 0.05; and baseline performance b 0.20, Sobel 0.21, SE 0.04, p < 0.01. In summary, these two base models provide us with valuable information about the signicance of the parameters associated with the different intervening effects. From the only directs model we ascertained that the mediator variable plays an important role in the context of our model. From the no directs model we learned that the indirect effect of each antecedent with performance was signicant, as transmitted through the self-efcacy mediator. We now turn to additional models that complete the picture for the three different relationships that were hypothesized. Indirect effect Recall that learning goal orientation was hypothesized to have only an indirect effect with performance via self-efcacy. As shown in the upper triangle of Table 1, the correlation (i.e., total effect, byx) between the latent learning goal orientation variable and performance was not signicant (r 0.03, ns), as anticipated. Using the no directs model as a base, we next t a learning goal direct model by adding a path from learning goal orientation to performance. Although this model exhibited excellent t indices, [x2(22) 48.79, p < 0.01; GFI 0.95; CFI 0.98; SRMSR 0.047], it was not a signicant improvement over the no direct model [Dx2(1) 2.53, n.s.] and it differed signicantly from the saturated model [Dx2(2) 29.75, p < 0.001]. This implies that the direct effect of learning goal orientation to performance was not signicant, and indeed it was not (bym.x 0.12, n.s.). In contrast, the indirect effect of learning goal orientation to performance via self-efcacy was signicant in this model (bmx bym.x 0.09, Sobel 5.18, SE 1.83, p < 0.05). In summary, the indirect effect (bmx bym) was signicant in this model, whereas the direct X ! Y relationship (byx.m) was not. Given that the total (byx) was also not signicant, these results are consistent with the hypothesis of an indirect effect. Fully mediated effect We hypothesized that the inuence of the normative information manipulation on performance would be fully mediated by self-efcacy. As illustrated in the upper triangle of Table 1, the correlation between the normative information manipulation and performance was signicant (r 0.16, p < 0.05), as anticipated. Therefore, the total (byx) condition was fullled. Next, again using the no directs model as a base, next t a normative information direct model by adding a path from normative information to performance. This model also exhibited excellent t indices, [x2(22) 49.20, p < 0.01; GFI 0.95; CFI 0.98; SRMSR 0.050], but was also not a signicant improvement over the no direct model [Dx2(1) 2.12, n.s.], and differed signicantly from the saturated model [Dx2(2) 30.16, p < 0.001]. Thus, the direct effect of normative information to performance was not signicant (byx.m 0.10, n.s.) although the indirect effect was (bmx bym.x 0.05, Sobel 2.04, SE 0.95, p < 0.05). In summary, the results of this model indicate that normative information has a direct effect on the self-efcacy mediator (bmx), self-efcacy has a signicant relationship with performance (bym), and that the direct effect of normative information to performance (byx.m) is no longer signicant. Given the earlier signicant total X ! Y effect (byx), these results are consistent with the hypothesis of a full mediation. Partially mediated effect Last, we hypothesized that the inuence of the baseline performance on the experimental trial performance would be partially mediated by self-efcacy. Accordingly, using the no directs model again as a base, we t a baseline performance direct model by adding a path from baseline performance to performance. This model exhibited excellent t indices [x2(22) 21.90, n.s.;
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Figure 4. Model results of different intervening effects

GFI 0.98; CFI 1.00; SRMSR 0.024], was a signicant improvement over the no directs model [Dx2(1) 29.42, p < 0.01], and did not differ signicantly from the saturated model [Dx2(2) 2.86, n.s.]. This implies that the direct effect of baseline performance to performance was signicant, and in fact it was (byx.m 0.40, p < 0.01), as was the indirect effect via self-efcacy (bmx bym.x 0.10, Sobel 0.10, SE 0.04, p < 0.01). Moreover, baseline performance evidenced a signicant direct effect with the self-efcacy mediator (bmx), and self-efcacy had a signicant relationship with performance (bym.x). These ndings are consistent with the hypothesis of a partially mediated effect. The results of this model, which in effect constitutes the hypothesized model when all three intervening hypotheses are considered together, are presented in Figure 4.

Summary The series of model tests illustrated the chain of evidence required for different types of intervening effects. It is noteworthy that the overall t indices were excellent for all but the directs only, no directs, and the null latent models. The series of tests made clear that the lack of t stemmed from signicant relationships between: (1) all three antecedents and the self-efcacy mediator; (2) the efcacy mediator and the performance outcome; and (3) baseline performance and the performance outcome, directly. Inclusion of these relations fully accounted for the covariance among the latent variables. It is also worth noting that the indirect effects tests were signicant for all three antecedents in both the no directs model, as well as when considered individually in the direct effects models.

Discussion
The purpose of this paper was to revisit the popular question of how do you test mediated relationships? We submitted that researchers should consider issues related to the theory that they are testing, the research design that they are employing, and the construct validity of the measures that they collect. We argued that mediational inferences hinge on the ability of researchers to: (1) justify the causal order of variables; (2) reasonably exclude the inuence of outside factors; (3) demonstrate acceptable construct validity of their measures; (4) articulate, a priori, the nature of the intervening effects that they anticipate; and (5) obtain a pattern of effects that are consistent with their anticipated relationships while also disconrming alternative hypotheses.
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Research design factors are paramount for reasonable mediational inferences to be drawn. If the causal order of variables is compromised, then it matters little how well the measures perform or the covariances are partitioned. Because no analytic technique can discern the true causal order of variables, establishing the internal validity of a study is critical. Adequately ruling out the inuence of alternative explanations is also vital for drawing mediational inferences. Randomized eld experiments afford the greatest control over such concerns, yet they may not be feasible for a number of reasons. Nevertheless, they remain the gold standard and should be pursued whenever possible. Quasiexperimental designs offer reasonable fall back options, but as Campbell and Stanley (1966) long ago warned, are fraught with threats to internal validity. Lacking the ability to perform any type of experiment, temporal precedence, and strong theory offer some bases for specifying causal order, but they are certainly not the strongest positions to defend. In the end, journal editors, reviewers, and consumers of research will no doubt have greater condence in studies that leverage strong theory and experimental design features, reasonable exclusion of alternative explanations for effects, measures that have good construct validity and were gathered in the proper temporal precedence, and results that were consistent with the hypothesized relationships. In our empirical illustration, we justied the causal order of variables using a combination of techniques. First, an individual difference variable (learning goal orientation) was collected before the experiment was even introduced. Second, participants completed a practice exercise to familiarize themselves with the task and to establish a baseline. Third, we then randomly assigned participants to normative information experimental conditions, after which we assessed their self-efcacy before they completed the performance trial. We reported conrmatory factor analysis results that supported the measurement properties of the scales we employed, and then described a series of competing structural models that homed in on the parameters of interest for different intervening relationships. Given the strong theoretical foundation concerning self-efcacy, the combination of experimental design features, temporal precedence, measurement quality, and focused analyses represents a fairly strong position from which to draw mediational inferences. We also sought to differentiate indirect effects, partial mediation, and full mediation. Clearly they are similar in the sense that they all describe an intervening process linking antecedents with an outcome. However, we submitted that there are important, albeit subtle, differences between the nature of the relationship that they each advance. Moreover, we argued that different types of conrmatory and disconrming evidence are warranted for each type of relationships. Most importantly, we argued that researchers should articulate a priori hypotheses concerning the nature of the relationship(s) that they anticipate. This underscores the importance of adopting a conrmatory approach toward tests of intervening effects. As illustrated in the panels of Figure 2, the base model(s) that one chooses presents important guidelines for the evidential basis of different types of inferences. Moreover, when considered collectively in a larger structural model, which parameters are included has implications for tests of indirect and mediated relations. For example, a close examination of the results we reported will reveal that the magnitude of any given direct and indirect effect varied as a function of what other parameters were being modeled. In practice, it could well be that the signicance of a given parameter will change depending on the nature of the entire network of model relations. Therefore, we encourage researchers to articulate an a priori model (including any potential co-variates of interest), and to report the parameter estimates for that model. Naturally, a revised model may be suggested by the data; in which case it is informative to report the parameter estimates from that context as well. Of course, revised models need to be validated on a new sample. We provided an empirical illustration of the three types of intervening relationships. In so doing, we outlined how a series of structural equation models could be employed to test the relevant parameters for each relationship. This could have just as easily been done using standard multiple regression techniques. However, SEM techniques offer three critical advantages over multiple regression
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approaches. First, using a two-stage SEM approach, researchers explicitly address the measurement properties of the variables that they have collected before the consideration of the more substantive relations. Whereas SEM does not absolve researchers from the importance of using valid and reliable measures, it does explicitly account for how measurement properties inuence substantive conclusions. Second, SEM techniques explicitly consider the potential inuence of constrained parameters. In other words, SEM model t indices hinge on the veracity relationships thought not to exist. For example, a hypothesis of full mediation rests not only on the signicance of X ! M and M ! Y parameters, but also on whether X fails to relate signicantly to Y once M has been considered. The third strength of SEM analyses derives from the nested model comparisons. Whereas sample size and related factors determine the power of tests of whether a parameter of interest differs signicantly from zero, these are held relatively constant in the context of nested model tests. In other words, the SEM nested model comparisons allow one to home in on the specic parameters of interest and to contrast a given pattern of effects against viable alternatives. Clearly substantive considerations should guide the selection of alternative models (Anderson & Gerbing, 1988), yet we believe the three types of intervening effects we described will likely represent fairly viable alternatives for any hypothesis of interest. While we are clearly echoing previous calls for greater use of SEM techniques in mediational analyses (Baron & Kenny, 1986; James & Brett, 1984), they are not panaceas. Researchers must still attend to the preconditions for tests of mediation that we reviewed. Furthermore, the various comparison models that we advanced are not all directly comparable. Model contrasts are only valuable if competing models are nested. In other words, models are nested if one represents a more restrictive version of the other. Whereas both the saturated model and null latent models provide valuable universal benchmarks, the directs only and no directs models are only useful for limited comparisons. Nevertheless, the series of model comparisons enable researchers to test all the relevant parameters related to intervening effects. We should add that simpler approaches such as regression may well be applied in circumstances where the assumptions of SEM techniques have not been met (e.g., reasonable sample sizes).

Extensions
Moderated relationships Thus far we have been concerned with strictly main effect or linear relationships associated with various intervening effects. However, interactions or moderator relationships can also be incorporated into this framework. Both James and Brett (1984) and Baron and Kenny (1986) discussed procedures for testing both mediators and moderators simultaneously. James and Brett (1984), and more recently, Muller, Judd, and Yzerbyt (2005), further differentiated different forms that combinations of mediators and moderators may take. First, they described mediated moderation as the situation where an interaction between two antecedents, as related to a criterion variable, passes through a mediator. In effect, this implies that the moderator inuences the X ! M link of a mediated relationship. For example, the inuence of normative information on individuals self-efcacy might be contingent on the extent to which participants identify with the normative group. In other words, normative performance information about people just like me is likely to inuence a persons self-efcacy far more than is information about people much different than me. Tests of this moderation, whether they be conducted using moderated regression or more sophisticated SEM techniques (Cortina, Chen, & Dunlap, 2001), would follow the analytic approach that we outlined earlier, while also considering interactions involving the antecedent variable(s) and the moderator. The other combination of variables is referred to as moderated mediation (James & Brett, 1984). In this case, the moderator exerts its inuence on the M ! Y path in the X ! M ! Y sequence. For
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example, individuals self-efcacy is likely to have a stronger relationship with their performance in weak or unconstrained environments, whereas strong environments or ones with abundant situational constraints would likely attenuate self-efcacy ! performance relations. Here again, the standard evidential basis for establishing mediated relations is followed; only the moderators inuence on tests including the M ! Y combination is also considered. In short, the difference between the two types of combinations follows from whether the moderator exerts its inuence on the X ! M link (mediated moderation) or on the M ! Y link (moderated mediation) in the X ! M ! Y sequence. Multiple mediators To this point we have been discussing relationships between antecedents and an outcome via a single mediator. However, there are many circumstances where multiple mediators may be in operation. There are two different varieties of multiple mediation. The rst instance of multiple mediation simply involves a longer causal chain such as X ! M1 ! M2 ! Y. For example, self-set goals have long been considered as a mediating mechanism linking self-efcacy in performance (Bandura & Locke, 2003). Consequently, the fully mediated relationship between normative information and performance that we illustrated would be transmitted through a self-efcacy ! self-set goals ! performance chain. Whether the relationship between self-efcacy and performance is partially or fully mediated by goals must be hypothesized and analyzed accordingly, as does the normative information ! selfefcacy ! self-set goals sequence. Analytic techniques to address the relative contribution of some X variable on some distal Y variable as transmitted by two (or more) sequential mediators are still evolving (see Shrout & Bolger, 2002). Nevertheless, the preconditions for testing mediational type inferences that we outlined would apply. The second form of multiple mediation concerns two or more stacked mediators. For example, Kohler and Mathieu (1993) advanced a model whereby individual resource variables and work related perceptions where associated with different forms of absenteeism as mediated by three work attitudes (e.g., job satisfaction) and three forms of work stress (e.g., somatic tensions). These authors considered the work attitudes and stresses as co-occurring in the sense that they advanced no causal sequence among them. Kohler and Mathieu (1993) tested mediational relations using a block of mediators considered together as a set. More recently, Preacher and Hayes (2005) have advanced techniques to not only assess the extent to which blocks of such mediators convey indirect effects, but also enable researchers to differentiate the extent to which the collective indirect effects are attributable to each of the mediators considered. Multi-level approaches Throughout this paper we have assumed that all variables of interest were indexed at the same level of analysis. However, mediational inferences can also be considered in the context of multi-level designs. Generally, multi-level designs come in two varieties: (1) nested entities; and (2) longitudinal approaches. In nested entity designs, some focal level-1 of analysis (e.g., individuals) is considered in the context of higher level-2 units (e.g., teams). In these designs, antecedents and mediators may emanate from different levels of analysis and combine to inuence a lower-level criterion (see Mathieu & Taylor, in press). For example, team characteristics (X) may inuence members individual performances as mediated by level-2 team processes (M) or perhaps by their level-1 identication with the team. A second type of multi-level design is commonly referred to as within-subject (Judd, Kenny, & McClelland, 2001), growth-curve modeling (e.g., Bliese & Polyhart, 2002), or repeated measures (e.g., Moskowitz & Hershberger, 2002) designs. In these designs, the lower level-1 variables are represented as repeated observations of the same unit of analysis (e.g., individual) over time. For example, one might consider the inuence of level-2 individuals personality traits (X) on their individual level-1
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performance overtime (Y), as mediated by their work attitudes. Mediators (M) in this context could be relatively stable level-2 work attitudes (e.g., organizational commitment) assessed at a single point in time, or temporally changing level-1 variables (e.g., moods) assessed using time sampling techniques. Plenty of good work is currently being advanced along these lines (e.g., Judd et al., 2001; Kenny, Korchmaros, & Bolger, 2003). In summary, multi-level designs expand the scope of mediational inferences to incorporate relationships that reside within levels of analysis, traverse levels of analysis, and unfold over time.

Conclusion
Our goal for this paper was to revisit issues related to the validity of mediational inferences in organizational behavior. We sought to emphasize the inextricable ties between theory, design, measurement, and analysis related to such inferences. We also argued that indirect effects, partial mediation, and full mediation represent slightly different forms of intervening effects. We submitted that researchers should specify which they anticipate a priori, as each relies on slightly different types of statistical evidence. Our hope is that this paper provides a framework for future investigations. We also believe that this approach should provide a foundation upon which to expand and incorporate moderated relationships, more complex multiple mediation applications, and multi-level designs.

Acknowledgements
We thank Gilad Chen, Jodi Goodman, Kris Preacher, Jack Veiga, and Zeki Simsek for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Author biographies
John E. Mathieu (John.Mathieu@business.uconn.edu) is a Professor and Cizik Chair of Management at the University of Connecticut. He received his PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University. He is a member of the Academy of Management and a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology, and the American Psychological Association. His current research interests include models of team and multi-team processes, and cross-level models of organizational behavior. Scott R. Taylor (Scott.Taylor@business.uconn.edu) is a PhD candidate in organizational behavior at the University of Connecticut. He received his MBA from the University of Virginia. He is a student member of the Academy of Management and Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology. His current research interests include team leadership and inuence, multi-level models of organizational behavior, and multi-team systems.
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