Effect size measures for mediation models: quantitative strategies for communicating indirect effects

Psychol Methods. 2011 Jun;16(2):93-115. doi: 10.1037/a0022658.


The statistical analysis of mediation effects has become an indispensable tool for helping scientists investigate processes thought to be causal. Yet, in spite of many recent advances in the estimation and testing of mediation effects, little attention has been given to methods for communicating effect size and the practical importance of those effect sizes. Our goals in this article are to (a) outline some general desiderata for effect size measures, (b) describe current methods of expressing effect size and practical importance for mediation, (c) use the desiderata to evaluate these methods, and (d) develop new methods to communicate effect size in the context of mediation analysis. The first new effect size index we describe is a residual-based index that quantifies the amount of variance explained in both the mediator and the outcome. The second new effect size index quantifies the indirect effect as the proportion of the maximum possible indirect effect that could have been obtained, given the scales of the variables involved. We supplement our discussion by offering easy-to-use R tools for the numerical and visual communication of effect size for mediation effects.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics / methods*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Statistics as Topic*