The concept of validity

D. Borsboom*, G.J. Mellenbergh, J. van Heerden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article advances a simple conception of test validity: A test is valid for measuring an attribute if (a) the attribute exists and (b) variations in the attribute causally produce variation in the measurement outcomes. This conception is shown to diverge from current validity theory in several respects. In particular, the emphasis in the proposed conception is on ontology, reference, and causality, whereas current validity theory focuses on epistemology, meaning, and correlation. It is argued that the proposed conception is not only simpler but also theoretically superior to the position taken in the existing literature. Further, it has clear theoretical and practical implications for validation research. Most important, validation research must not be directed at the relation between the measured attribute and other attributes but at the processes that convey the effect of the measured attribute on the test scores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1071
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

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