A moderator variable is, in general terms, a qualitative (e.g., sex, race, class) or quantitative (e.g., level of reward) variable that affects the direction and/or strength of the relation between dependent and independent variables. Specifically within a correlational analysis framework, a moderator is a third variable that affects the zero-order correlation between two other variables. In analysis of variance (ANOVA) terms, a basic moderator effect can be represented as an interaction between a focal independent variable and a factor that specifies the appropriate conditions for its operation (Baron and Kenny, 1986: p. 1174).
- Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). "The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 51, No. 6, pp. 1173-1182.