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.

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