Four applications of permutation methods to testing a single-mediator model

Aaron B. Taylor, David Mackinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Four applications of permutation tests to the single-mediator model are described and evaluated in this study. Permutation tests work by rearranging data in many possible ways in order to estimate the sampling distribution for the test statistic. The four applications to mediation evaluated here are the permutation test of ab, the permutation joint significance test, and the noniterative and iterative permutation confidence intervals for ab. A Monte Carlo simulation study was used to compare these four tests with the four best available tests for mediation found in previous research: the joint significance test, the distribution of the product test, and the percentile and bias-corrected bootstrap tests. We compared the different methods on Type I error, power, and confidence interval coverage. The noniterative permutation confidence interval for ab was the best performer among the new methods. It successfully controlled Type I error, had power nearly as good as the most powerful existing methods, and had better coverage than any existing method. The iterative permutation confidence interval for ab had lower power than do some existing methods, but it performed better than any other method in terms of coverage. The permutation confidence interval methods are recommended when estimating a confidence interval is a primary concern. SPSS and SAS macros that estimate these confidence intervals are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)806-844
Number of pages39
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Mediation
  • Permutation test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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