A Tutorial in Bayesian Potential Outcomes Mediation Analysis

Milica Miočević, Oscar Gonzalez, Matthew J. Valente, David Mackinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Statistical mediation analysis is used to investigate intermediate variables in the relation between independent and dependent variables. Causal interpretation of mediation analyses is challenging because randomization of subjects to levels of the independent variable does not rule out the possibility of unmeasured confounders of the mediator to outcome relation. Furthermore, commonly used frequentist methods for mediation analysis compute the probability of the data given the null hypothesis, which is not the probability of a hypothesis given the data as in Bayesian analysis. Under certain assumptions, applying the potential outcomes framework to mediation analysis allows for the computation of causal effects, and statistical mediation in the Bayesian framework gives indirect effects probabilistic interpretations. This tutorial combines causal inference and Bayesian methods for mediation analysis so the indirect and direct effects have both causal and probabilistic interpretations. Steps in Bayesian causal mediation analysis are shown in the application to an empirical example.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-136
Number of pages16
JournalStructural Equation Modeling
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • Bayesian methods
  • causal inference
  • mediation analysis
  • potential outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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