Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 425-438

First online:

Comparison of methods for constructing confidence intervals of standardized indirect effects

  • Mike W. L. CheungAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore Email author 


Mediation models are often used as a means to explain the psychological mechanisms between an independent and a dependent variable in the behavioral and social sciences. A major limitation of the unstandardized indirect effect calculated from raw scores is that it cannot be interpreted as an effect-size measure. In contrast, the standardized indirect effect calculated from standardized scores can be a good candidate as a measure of effect size because it is scale invariant. In the present article, 11 methods for constructing the confidence intervals (CIs) of the standardized indirect effects were evaluated via a computer simulation. These included six Wald CIs, three bootstrap CIs, one likelihood-based CI, and the PRODCLIN CI. The results consistently showed that the percentile bootstrap, the bias-corrected bootstrap, and the likelihood-based approaches had the best coverage probability. Mplus, LISREL, and Mx syntax were included to facilitate the use of these preferred methods in applied settings. Future issues on the use of the standardized indirect effects are discussed.