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Moderator–Mediator Variable Distinction
Moderator–mediator variable distinction
Introduction

The purpose of this analysis is to distinguish between the properties of moderator and mediator variables in such a way as to clarify the different ways in which conceptual variables may account for differences in peoples’ behaviour. Specifically, we differentiate between two often-confused functions of third variables:

  • the moderator function of third variables, which partitions a focal independent variable into subgroups that establish its domains of maximal effectiveness in regard to a given dependent variable
  • the mediator function of a third variable, which represents the generative mechanism through which the focal independent variable is able to influence the dependent variable of interest.

Although these two functions of third variables have a relatively long tradition in the social sciences, it is not at all uncommon ...

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