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Mediation and Moderator Conceptual Differences
Mediation and moderator differences are thought to be particularly important in refining research theories and testing casual hypothesis. To ensure their terms are not applied interchangeably, Wu and Zumbo (2008) analysis provide specific theoretical concepts and data experiments appropriate for providing territorial constructs of distinguishing their casual relationships.
First, Wu and Zumbo (2008) define mediator as “a third variable that links a cause and an effect” (p.2). This clearly explains the difference between a cause and an effect. Wu and Zumbo (2008) further explain that “mediation analysis seeks to identify the intermediary process that leads from the independent variable to the dependent variable” (p.3). This simply means that in mediation, the mediators take two roles; one side being the mediator (dependent variable X) and the other side being the independent variable.
Wu and Zumbo (2008) further explain that by employing mediation concept, further research will be required to establish a relationship between a mediator and the meditating variable. They further give an example of a drug abuse prevention program where they argue that independent variable such as treatment or control is dependent on drug offer- which affects the outcome of a drug resistant. Secondly, mediation concept requires establishment of a mediating variable and a criteria variable. This simply means that in cases of theoretical conceptualization levels (where a person is used as the basis unit of analysis), psychological analysis regard mediators as properties of a person that processes between a stimulus and a response (input variables).
Wu and Zumbo (2008) mediator’s definition is not limited to individualistic approach but rather broadens its scope by providing theoretical hypothesis that explains how one variable affects the other. In summary, mediation definition is constructed on social psychology where group levels are highly emphasized. This is explained by a group of organization researchers found in Wu and Zumbo (2008) article that link moderation to territorial constructs of cohesiveness, conflict, norms and groupthink. This very concept is in principle capable of rigorous tests at group levels.
For example, Wu and Zumbo (2008) article attempts to “support a mediator interpretation of cohesiveness using a strategy combining experimental manipulation with casual modeling” (p.3). Moderators concept, on the other hand, describes ‘when’ particular events occur and for ‘whom’ they are connected to. Wu and Zumbo (2008) define moderators as “independent variable strongly (or weakly) causes a dependent variable” (p.4).
Here, moderator is explained to moderate a course or direction to which a study is directed at -which is either positive or negative of a casual relationship. Mediation research, on the other hand, is more inclined in the mechanism (where it employs variations in self-monitoring) as compared to moderation that concentrates in the exogenous variable itself (such as dissonance and personal control mediators). Exogenous variable has been argued to have the ability of pursuing endless numbers of predictors. In summary, a moderator is more interested in a predictor variable while its concept is strongly committed to a particular moderator.
Research design requires clarity of the ‘role’ of and ‘purpose’ of a research design. For instance, the article should have explained implications and applications of mediation and moderation in terms of where the design fits in the entire research process. The literature rather documents on their casual relationships and goes ahead to explain functions of individual’s psychological process after being subjected to theoretical hypotheses.
Sound research design begins with framing the question followed by data analysis and finalized with data reporting. Secondly, the research did not demonstrate whether the research was descriptive (by asking the question what is going on) or by whether it was explanatory (explaining why the event is going on). A descriptive research here should have included population census, social indicators and economic information items to be measured.
In the drug abuse prevention program for example, social indicators should have been established to demonstrate how the program shows manipulation when subjected to different variables -which would have helped in shaping our understanding of the two theoretical concepts. Relatively, the research design should have described the group involved in drug use (mix of a community), manipulation to resistant to drug and outcome of accepting/refusing the drug. Alternatively, the description should have asked more hypothesis questions aimed at establishing inequality in drug resistance, levels of such resistances or how such designs are underutilized.
Good explanatory research tries to examine explanatory questions that seek to identify a cause and an effect in relationship setting. For example, if drug abuse prevention program contributes to resistance to drug use and the outcome of refusing/accepting a drug offer, then the research design will prompt the question ‘why this is happening’.
Wu and Zumbo (2008) article provides many examples of research design framework with unfocused variables that fail to demonstrate how samples were chosen for conclusive analysis. To demonstrate mediator effect, research design should have focused on the ‘why’ questions rather than effects of independent variables- which proved insufficient in regressing the dependable variable that relied only on the mediator. Secondly, the design should have described how drug abuse prevention program operates in terms of studied trends overtime and explanations to why drug resistance is becoming high or low.
Mediation and Moderation Variable Analysis
Jordan et al (2002) introduce job insecurity as a mediator model that is increased by work effort and work involvement. This article draws on job security hypothesis-which has been found to produce stress and decreased performance. With regards to research design, Jordan and his colleagues (2002) do not define the role of and purpose of the research design since the entire analysis is concentrated on job security and its effects, how employees react emotionally to perceived job insecurity and behavioral response to emotional reactions. De Jong and Elfring (2010) on the other hand employ a moderator theoretical model where they explain the effect of trust and its implications on interpersonal relationships-where it’s predicted to increase the impacts of trust dynamics on team member interactions (p.1).
De Jong and Elfring (2010) hypothesis were consistent with its theoretical model since the test addressed the model directly. Research design on the other hand was comparative and sampling teams were heterogeneous to provide flexibility- which served crucial to proving applicability of their theory. Group longevity broadens empirical understanding of theoretical models. De Jong and Elfring (2010) study hypothesized that trust affect performance in a variety of ways and suggested future research that requires context specific theories such as how intra-team trust affect team performance. De Jong and Elfring (2010) also highlight on the relatively large sample that compromised the ability for detecting hypothesis.
Hekman and his colleagues (2010) use moderator approach to examine the effect of independent variables change have on dependent variables. This seeks to answer the question ‘whether’ and ‘how’ customer satisfaction ratings (independent variable) are influenced- (by gender and racial bias-dependent variable). The research broadens its scope to conceptualize these satisfaction ratings as judgments (as independent variable most strongly or weak causing dependent variable).
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The hypothesis drawn here was an assumption that customers are prone to information-processing bias, just like anyone else in a social judgment. With regards to research design issues, Hekman and his colleagues (2010) did not include population census, social indicators and economic information as statistical items to be measured. In drug abuse prevention program for example, social indicators should have been established to demonstrate how the program shows manipulation. Research design should also have explained whether the study employed experimental design type, case study, longitudinal study or cross section design.
The study broadens our understanding on theoretical and empirical understanding of moderation and moderator casual relationships. De Jong and Elfring (2010) observe inconsistency in research design and sample collection and how it affects research outcome in a number of ways. This calls for content-specific theories for future research. Creating research design for purposes of developing and evaluating casual theories should be specific and simple to allow understanding of its procedural order of development.
The primary role of research design is to adequately identify casual effects that prompt the ‘why’ question and able to test theories. This means that Wu and Zumbo (2008) should have collected evidence that is consistent with research design and theories. The analysis also provided specific theoretical concepts appropriate for providing distinction between moderation and mediation casual relationships.
This concluded that most of the research was generalized making it unable to make sense of the observations and to refine research theories. Conclusively, sound research design begins with framing the question followed by data analysis and finalized with data reporting. Secondly, research needs to demonstrate whether the research is descriptive (by asking the ‘why’ question) or explanatory (explaining why the event is going on). And in cases of descriptive research, items such as population census, social indicators and economic information should been included.
De Jong, B, A.,& Elfring, T. (2010). How does trust affect the performance of ongoing teams? The mediating role of reflexivity, monitoring, and effort. Academy of Management Journal, 53(3), 535-549.
Hekman, D. R., Aquino, K., Owens, B. P., Mitchell, T.R.,& Schilpzand, P. (2010). An examination of whether and how racial and gender biases influence customer satisfaction. Academy of Management Journal, 53(2), 238-264).
Jordan, J. P., Ashkanasy, N.M.,& Hartel, C.J., (2002). Emotional Intelligence as a Moderation of Emotional and Behavioral Reaction to Job Insecurity. Academy of Management Review, 27(3), 361-372.
Wu, A. W., & Zumbo, B.D. (2008).Understanding and Using Mediators and Moderators. Soc Indic Res, 87, 367-392.