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Mediation is a type of a relation among three variables (moderation is another such three-variable association). The term mediator describes one of the variables in such an association. Three-variable associations are important in understanding how a complex system, such as a treatment for a mental health disorder, might operate.

Conceptual Definition

Conceptually, a variable (M) mediates the effect of a target variable (T) on an outcome (O) if M suggests how or why T is associated with O. For example, suppose a randomized controlled trial (RCT) is conducted to determine whether cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or supportive therapy (ST; treatment choice, T) is more effective at reducing depressive symptoms (outcome, O). The question then arises of how or why it works better. Researchers might suspect that ...

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