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Statistics seminar: “A structural modelling approach to mediators, moderators and confounders. A counterfactual-free approach”

Seminario di Statistica

30/05/2013 dalle 16:00 alle 18:00

Dove Dipartimento di Scienze Statistiche - Via Belle Arti 41 - Aula III

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Michel Mouchart

Emeritus Professor, Université catholique de Louvain


As long as statistical association, or correlation, does not imply causation, causal attribution requires understanding the mechanism underlying a data generating process. Explaining a multivariate, or complex, process is most properly operated through a recur- sive decomposition of a multivariate distribution into a sequence of marginal and conditional distributions, each one representing a sub-mechanism of the global one. A structural modeling approach endeavors at unfolding the structure underlying the data generating process and looks for sub-mechanisms congruent with eld knowledge and enjoying a suitable stability, or invariance, relatively to a population of interest and, accordingly to a suitable class of interventions or of modi cation of the environment. The e ect of a (causing) variable on the outcome of a sub-mechanism is evaluated through the change, or variation, of the conditional distribution, representing a sub-mechanism, attributable to a change, or variation, of the causing variable of interest. The classi cation of variables into mediators, moderators or confounding variables refers to the role of a variable on the working of a mechanism or of a sub-mechanism. This paper shows that measuring the e ect of a causing variable does not require the recourse to counterfactual concepts but also the counterfactual ideas may, in some contexts, provide a suitable starting point for an adequate structural model.