January 7, 2016

Book Review of “Explanation in Causal Inference: Mediation and Interaction” by T.J. Vanderweele

By Luke Keele


Book review of “Explanation in Causal Inference: Mediation and Interaction” (author T.J. Vanderweele)

Explanation in Causal Inference: Methods of Mediation and Interaction is an introductory text on two widely used methods in statistical analysis: mediation and interaction. The book is both meant to serve as an introduction to these two topics, but also provides considerable mathematical detail in a lengthy appendix. Importantly, the treatment of these two topics is entirely grounded in a counterfactual framework. The counterfactual framework, often referred to as the potential outcomes framework, has been hailed as a revolution in how we think about causality and statistical analysis. I would agree with that sentiment, but the impact of the counterfactual framework is varied. On some topics, the insights have been less revolutionary, but in other areas this framework has I think completely revised how we think. The topics of mediation and interaction analysis are two that I would say have been seriously changed by the counterfactual framework. I think there is already a fairly widespread understanding of how mediation analysis has changed, and this book will only help further spread that awareness. On the topic of interaction analysis, I think there is less appreciation for how the counterfactual framework has changed thinking. This book serves as the remedy.

Book Reviews