What's an intuitive way to remember the difference between mediation and moderation?

user1205901 03/11/2015. 1 answers, 371 views
interaction intuition mediation teaching

In my experience these two terms frequently confuse students.

For teaching purposes I am looking for some way to help students distinguish between them. One way might be to show that the statistical concepts map onto the terms in a way that matches their everyday meaning. Another way might be to suggest a mnemonic to students.

1 Answers


Lea 10/17/2015.

Of course your students should understand the concept, and examples are in order. But a few mnemonics might still be useful. Even though I've done mediation and moderation analyses, I use my mnemonics when I didn't work with the concepts in a while. Your students might encounter them even less once your class is over. And avoiding the terms altogether when they are in use in many fields doesn't seem like a useful solution either. I think I would draw the two models and say something along the lines of

  • The moderator modifies a relationship between two variables
  • Mediator: medium = in the middle, a middleman doesn't modify a message, just transports it. A medium (as a psychic intermediary) conveys a message from the dead, but just acts as a proxy. Even though that explanation is not perfectly accurate, it reminds me of the drawn models and then I remember the concepts. To drive home the point it could be useful to draw X -> M -> Y first before drawing the model that includes also the direct path X -> Y

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