Mediation Analysis by Multiple Regression
Shu Fai Cheung & SingHang Cheung
20231006
Source:vignettes/med_lm.Rmd
med_lm.Rmd
Introduction
This article is a brief illustration of how to use
indirect_effect()
from the package manymome (Cheung & Cheung,
2023) to estimate the indirect effects when the model parameters are
estimated by ordinary least squares (OLS) multiple regression using
lm()
.
Data Set and Model
This is the sample dataset used for illustration:
library(manymome)
dat < data_med_complicated
print(round(head(dat), 2))
#> x1 x2 m11 m12 m2 y1 y2 c1 c2
#> 1 10.16 4.00 5.84 6.78 7.11 6.06 10.38 5.01 8.20
#> 2 10.89 4.79 4.95 5.81 7.92 5.15 8.52 3.92 9.90
#> 3 9.99 5.79 4.95 4.47 8.21 3.25 7.81 5.91 11.36
#> 4 12.36 4.80 5.56 6.21 8.88 6.27 9.41 6.06 10.49
#> 5 10.85 6.39 6.19 5.39 8.76 5.36 9.84 4.28 9.81
#> 6 10.28 4.58 4.88 4.28 8.50 4.57 10.42 4.71 11.38
This dataset has 9 variables: 2 predictors (x1
and
x2
), three mediators (m11
, m12
,
and m2
), two outcome variables (y1
and
y2
), and two control variables (c1
and
c2
).
Suppose this is the model to be fitted:
Despite the apparent complexity, the path parameters can be estimated by five multiple regression models:
lm_m11 < lm(m11 ~ x1 + x2 + c1 + c2, dat)
lm_m12 < lm(m12 ~ m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2, dat)
lm_m2 < lm(m2 ~ x1 + x2 + c1 + c2, dat)
lm_y1 < lm(y1 ~ m12 + m2 + m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2, dat)
lm_y2 < lm(y2 ~ m12 + m2 + m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2, dat)
These are the regression coefficient estimates of the paths (those of control variables omitted):
#> m11 m12 m2 y1 y2
#> x1 0.352 0.212 0.022 0.078 0.115
#> x2 0.045 0.072 0.289 0.003 0.062
#> m11 0.454 0.147 0.024
#> m12 0.234 0.135
#> m2 0.433 0.436
Although not mandatory, it is recommended to combine these five
models into one object (a system of regression models) using
lm2list()
:
fit_lm < lm2list(lm_m11, lm_m12, lm_m2, lm_y1, lm_y2)
fit_lm
#>
#> The models:
#> m11 ~ x1 + x2 + c1 + c2
#> m12 ~ m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2
#> m2 ~ x1 + x2 + c1 + c2
#> y1 ~ m12 + m2 + m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2
#> y2 ~ m12 + m2 + m11 + x1 + x2 + c1 + c2
Simply use the lm()
outputs as arguments. Order does not
matter. To ensure that the regression outputs can be validly combined,
lm2list()
will also check:
whether the same sample is used in all regression analysis (not just same sample size, but the same set of cases), and
whether the models are “connected”, to ensure that the regression outputs can be validly combined.
Generating Bootstrap Estimates
To form nonparametric bootstrap confidence interval for indirect
effects to be computed, do_boot()
can be used to generate
bootstrap estimates for all regression coefficients first. These
estimates can be reused for any indirect effects to be estimated.
boot_out_lm < do_boot(fit_lm,
R = 100,
seed = 54532,
ncores = 1)
Please see vignette("do_boot")
or the help page of
do_boot()
on how to use this function. In real research,
R
, the number of bootstrap samples, should be set to 2000
or even 5000. The argument ncores
can usually be omitted
unless users want to manually control the number of CPU cores used in
parallel processing.
Indirect Effects
We can now use indirect_effect()
to estimate the
indirect effect and form its bootstrap confidence interval for any path
in the model. By reusing the generated bootstrap estimates, there is no
need to repeat the resampling.
Suppose we want to estimate the indirect effect from x1
to y1
through m11
and m12
:
(Refer to vignette("manymome")
and the help page of
indirect_effect()
on the arguments.)
out_x1m11m12y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = c("m11", "m12"),
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x1m11m12y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.037
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.003 to 0.077]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m11~x1)*(b.m12~m11)*(b.y1~m12)
#> Computation:
#> (0.35204)*(0.45408)*(0.23402)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m11~x1 0.352
#> m12~m11 0.454
#> y1~m12 0.234
The indirect effect is 0.037, with 95% confidence interval [0.003, 0.077].
Similarly, we can estimate the indirect effect from x2
to y2
through m2
:
out_x2m2y2 < indirect_effect(x = "x2",
y = "y2",
m = "m2",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x2m2y2
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x2 > m2 > y2
#> Indirect Effect 0.126
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.233 to 0.043]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m2~x2)*(b.y2~m2)
#> Computation:
#> (0.28901)*(0.43598)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m2~x2 0.289
#> y2~m2 0.436
The indirect effect is 0.126, with 95% confidence interval [0.233, 0.043].
Note that any indirect path in the model can be estimated this way.
Suppose, after doing the regression analysis, we want to estimate the
indirect effect from x2
to m12
through
m11
, we just call indirect_effect()
:
out_x2m11m12 < indirect_effect(x = "x2",
y = "m12",
m = "m11",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x2m11m12
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x2 > m11 > m12
#> Indirect Effect 0.020
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.139 to 0.110]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m11~x2)*(b.m12~m11)
#> Computation:
#> (0.04471)*(0.45408)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m11~x2 0.0447
#> m12~m11 0.4541
The indirect effect is 0.020, with 95% confidence interval [0.139, 0.110].
There is no limit on the path to be estimated, as long as all
required path coefficients are in the model.
indirect_effect()
will also check whether a path is valid.
Therefore, estimating the effect from x1
to m2
through m11
will result in an error because this path does
not exist in the model defined by the regression outputs.
Standardized Indirect effects
The standardized indirect effect from x1
to
y1
through m11
and m12
can be
estimated by setting standardized_x
and
standardized_y
to `TRUE:
std_x1m11m12y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = c("m11", "m12"),
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm,
standardized_x = TRUE,
standardized_y = TRUE)
std_x1m11m12y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.039
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.004 to 0.085]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m11~x1)*(b.m12~m11)*(b.y1~m12)*sd_x1/sd_y1
#> Computation:
#> (0.35204)*(0.45408)*(0.23402)*(1.11605)/(1.06579)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m11~x1 0.352
#> m12~m11 0.454
#> y1~m12 0.234
#>
#> NOTE: The effects of the component paths are from the model, not standardized.
The standardized indirect effect is 0.039, with 95% confidence interval [0.004,0.085].
Similarly, we can estimate the standardized indirect effect from
x1
to y1
through m2
:
std_x1m2y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = "m2",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm,
standardized_x = TRUE,
standardized_y = TRUE)
std_x1m2y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m2 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.010
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.069 to 0.067]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m2~x1)*(b.y1~m2)*sd_x1/sd_y1
#> Computation:
#> (0.02233)*(0.43300)*(1.11605)/(1.06579)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m2~x1 0.0223
#> y1~m2 0.4330
#>
#> NOTE: The effects of the component paths are from the model, not standardized.
The standardized indirect effect is 0.010, with 95% confidence interval [0.069, 0.067].
Adding Effects
Note that the results of indirect_effect()
can be added
using +
.
For example, to find the total indirect effect of
x1
on y1
, we need to compute the indirect
effects along the following paths:

x1
tom11
tom12
toy1

x1
tom11
toy1

x1
tom12
toy1

x1
tom2
toy1
The indirect effects along Path a has already been computed. We compute the indirect effects along Paths b, c, and d below:
out_x1m11y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = "m11",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x1m11y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.052
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.036 to 0.103]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m11~x1)*(b.y1~m11)
#> Computation:
#> (0.35204)*(0.14694)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m11~x1 0.352
#> y1~m11 0.147
out_x1m12y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = "m12",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x1m12y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m12 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.050
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.125 to 0.000]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m12~x1)*(b.y1~m12)
#> Computation:
#> (0.21182)*(0.23402)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m12~x1 0.212
#> y1~m12 0.234
out_x1m2y1 < indirect_effect(x = "x1",
y = "y1",
m = "m2",
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
out_x1m2y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m2 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.010
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.077 to 0.064]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m2~x1)*(b.y1~m2)
#> Computation:
#> (0.02233)*(0.43300)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m2~x1 0.0223
#> y1~m2 0.4330
We can now compute the total indirect effect:
out_x1y1_total < out_x1m11m12y1 + out_x1m11y1 + out_x1m12y1 + out_x1m2y1
out_x1y1_total
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m11 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m12 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m2 > y1
#> Function of Effects: 0.030
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.088 to 0.132]
#>
#> Computation of the Function of Effects:
#> (((x1>m11>m12>y1)
#> +(x1>m11>y1))
#> +(x1>m12>y1))
#> +(x1>m2>y1)
#>
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
The total effect of f1
on f4
is 0.030, with
95% confidence interval [0.088, 0.132].
See help("math_indirect")
for further details on
addition for indirect_effect()
outputs.
Differences in Effects
Subtraction can also be conducted using 
. For example,
we can compute the difference between the indirect effect of
x1
on y1
through m11
and
m12
and the indirect effect of x1
on
y1
through m2
:
out_x1_diff < out_x1m11m12y1  out_x1m2y1
out_x1_diff
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m2 > y1
#> Function of Effects: 0.047
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.038 to 0.118]
#>
#> Computation of the Function of Effects:
#> (x1>m11>m12>y1)
#> (x1>m2>y1)
#>
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
The difference in effects is 0.047, with 95% confidence interval [0.038, 0.118].
See help("math_indirect")
for further details on
subtraction for indirect_effect()
outputs.
Identifying All Indirect paths
If there are several indirect paths in a model, the function
all_indirect_paths()
can be used to automatically identify
all indirect paths (a path with at least one mediator) in a model:
all_paths < all_indirect_paths(fit = fit_lm)
all_paths
#> Call:
#> all_indirect_paths(fit = fit_lm)
#> Path(s):
#> path
#> 1 m11 > m12 > y1
#> 2 m11 > m12 > y2
#> 3 x1 > m11 > m12
#> 4 x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 5 x1 > m11 > y1
#> 6 x1 > m12 > y1
#> 7 x1 > m2 > y1
#> 8 x1 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 9 x1 > m11 > y2
#> 10 x1 > m12 > y2
#> 11 x1 > m2 > y2
#> 12 x2 > m11 > m12
#> 13 x2 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 14 x2 > m11 > y1
#> 15 x2 > m12 > y1
#> 16 x2 > m2 > y1
#> 17 x2 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 18 x2 > m11 > y2
#> 19 x2 > m12 > y2
#> 20 x2 > m2 > y2
#> 21 c1 > m11 > m12
#> 22 c1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 23 c1 > m11 > y1
#> 24 c1 > m12 > y1
#> 25 c1 > m2 > y1
#> 26 c1 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 27 c1 > m11 > y2
#> 28 c1 > m12 > y2
#> 29 c1 > m2 > y2
#> 30 c2 > m11 > m12
#> 31 c2 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 32 c2 > m11 > y1
#> 33 c2 > m12 > y1
#> 34 c2 > m2 > y1
#> 35 c2 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 36 c2 > m11 > y2
#> 37 c2 > m12 > y2
#> 38 c2 > m2 > y2
The initial list is very long because control variables
(c1
and c2
) are included in the search.
Moreover, paths that start from a mediator or end at a mediator are also
included. Users can customize the search:
all_paths < all_indirect_paths(fit = fit_lm,
x = c("x1", "x2"),
y = c("y1", "y2"),
exclude = c("c1", "c2"))
all_paths
#> Call:
#> all_indirect_paths(fit = fit_lm, exclude = c("c1", "c2"), x = c("x1",
#> "x2"), y = c("y1", "y2"))
#> Path(s):
#> path
#> 1 x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 2 x1 > m11 > y1
#> 3 x1 > m12 > y1
#> 4 x1 > m2 > y1
#> 5 x1 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 6 x1 > m11 > y2
#> 7 x1 > m12 > y2
#> 8 x1 > m2 > y2
#> 9 x2 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> 10 x2 > m11 > y1
#> 11 x2 > m12 > y1
#> 12 x2 > m2 > y1
#> 13 x2 > m11 > m12 > y2
#> 14 x2 > m11 > y2
#> 15 x2 > m12 > y2
#> 16 x2 > m2 > y2
x
is a vector of names. Only paths start from these variables will be included.y
is a vector of names. Only paths end at these variables will be included.exclude
is a vector of names. Paths that involve these variables will be excluded.
The output is a all_paths
class object. It can be used
in many_indirect_effects()
out_all < many_indirect_effects(paths = all_paths,
fit = fit_lm,
boot_ci = TRUE,
boot_out = boot_out_lm)
The first argument, paths
, is the output of
all_indirect_paths()
. The other arguments will be passed to
indirect_effect()
.
The output is an indirect_list
class object, which is a
list of the outputs of indirect_effects()
. If printed, a
summary of the indirect effects will be printed:
out_all
#>
#> == Indirect Effect(s) ==
#> ind CI.lo CI.hi Sig
#> x1 > m11 > m12 > y1 0.037 0.003 0.077 Sig
#> x1 > m11 > y1 0.052 0.036 0.103
#> x1 > m12 > y1 0.050 0.125 0.000 Sig
#> x1 > m2 > y1 0.010 0.077 0.064
#> x1 > m11 > m12 > y2 0.022 0.015 0.065
#> x1 > m11 > y2 0.009 0.086 0.093
#> x1 > m12 > y2 0.029 0.089 0.014
#> x1 > m2 > y2 0.010 0.074 0.068
#> x2 > m11 > m12 > y1 0.005 0.044 0.017
#> x2 > m11 > y1 0.007 0.055 0.034
#> x2 > m12 > y1 0.017 0.054 0.049
#> x2 > m2 > y1 0.125 0.258 0.031 Sig
#> x2 > m11 > m12 > y2 0.003 0.021 0.022
#> x2 > m11 > y2 0.001 0.021 0.052
#> x2 > m12 > y2 0.010 0.056 0.045
#> x2 > m2 > y2 0.126 0.233 0.043 Sig
#>
#>  [CI.lo to CI.hi] are 95.0% percentile confidence intervals by
#> nonparametric bootstrapping with 100 samples.
#>  The 'ind' column shows the indirect effects.
#>
The output of many_indirect_effects()
is a named list,
names being the path name as appeared in the output. Individual indirect
effects can be extracted using either the indices or the path names
An example using index:
out1 < out_all[[1]]
out1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Indirect Effect 0.037
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.003 to 0.077]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m11~x1)*(b.m12~m11)*(b.y1~m12)
#> Computation:
#> (0.35204)*(0.45408)*(0.23402)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m11~x1 0.352
#> m12~m11 0.454
#> y1~m12 0.234
An example using path name (though not recommended because the name is usually long):
out2 < out_all[["x2 > m2 > y2"]]
out2
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x2 > m2 > y2
#> Indirect Effect 0.126
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.233 to 0.043]
#>
#> Computation Formula:
#> (b.m2~x2)*(b.y2~m2)
#> Computation:
#> (0.28901)*(0.43598)
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
#>
#> Coefficients of Component Paths:
#> Path Coefficient
#> m2~x2 0.289
#> y2~m2 0.436
The extracted element can be used just like the outputs of
indirect_effect()
in previous section.
See the help page of all_indirect_paths()
and
many_indirect_effects()
for other arguments available.
Total Indirect Effect
The total indirect effect between two variables in a list of paths
can be computed by total_indirect_effect()
.
total_x1_y1 < total_indirect_effect(out_all,
x = "x1",
y = "y1")
total_x1_y1
#>
#> == Indirect Effect ==
#>
#> Path: x1 > m11 > m12 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m11 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m12 > y1
#> Path: x1 > m2 > y1
#> Function of Effects: 0.030
#> 95.0% Bootstrap CI: [0.088 to 0.132]
#>
#> Computation of the Function of Effects:
#> (((x1>m11>m12>y1)
#> +(x1>m11>y1))
#> +(x1>m12>y1))
#> +(x1>m2>y1)
#>
#>
#> Percentile confidence interval formed by nonparametric bootstrapping
#> with 100 bootstrap samples.
The first argument is the output of
many_indirect_effects()
or a list of
indirect
class object. x
is the name of the
variable that starts the paths. y
is the name of the
variable that ends the paths.
Further Information
For further information on do_boot()
and
indirect_effect()
, please refer to their help pages.
Reference
Cheung, S. F., & Cheung, S.H. (2023). manymome: An R package for computing the indirect effects, conditional effects, and conditional indirect effects, standardized or unstandardized, and their bootstrap confidence intervals, in many (though not all) models. Behavior Research Methods. https://doi.org/10.3758/s1342802302224z