A Causal Approach to Functional Mediation Analysis with Application to a Smoking Cessation Intervention

Donna L. Coffman, John J. Dziak, Kaylee Litson, Yajnaseni Chakraborti, Megan E. Piper, Runze Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increase in the use of mobile and wearable devices now allows dense assessment of mediating processes over time. For example, a pharmacological intervention may have an effect on smoking cessation via reductions in momentary withdrawal symptoms. We define and identify the causal direct and indirect effects in terms of potential outcomes on the mean difference and odds ratio scales, and present a method for estimating and testing the indirect effect of a randomized treatment on a distal binary variable as mediated by the nonparametric trajectory of an intensively measured longitudinal variable (e.g., from ecological momentary assessment). Coverage of a bootstrap test for the indirect effect is demonstrated via simulation. An empirical example is presented based on estimating later smoking abstinence from patterns of craving during smoking cessation treatment. We provide an R package, funmediation, available on CRAN at https://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/funmediation/index.html, to conveniently apply this technique. We conclude by discussing possible extensions to multiple mediators and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-876
Number of pages18
JournalMultivariate Behavioral Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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