Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: Myths and truths about mediation analysis

Xinshu ZHAO*, John G. Lynch, Qimei Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4395 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Baron and Kenny's procedure for determining if an independent variable affects a dependent variable through some mediator is so well known that it is used by authors and requested by reviewers almost reflexively. Many research projects have been terminated early in a research program or later in the review process because the data did not conform to Baron and Kenny's criteria, impeding theoretical development. While the technical literature has disputed some of Baron and Kenny's tests, this literature has not diffused to practicing researchers. We present a nontechnical summary of the flaws in the Baron and Kenny logic, some of which have not been previously noted. We provide a decision tree and a step-by-step procedure for testing mediation, classifying its type, and interpreting the implications of findings for theory building and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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