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Foundations of Validity: Meaning and Consequences in Psychological Assessment

Messick, Samuel J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Construct Validity, Criteria, Test Content, Test Interpretation, Test Use, Test Validity


(18pp.) The traditional conception of validity divides it into three separate and substitutable types--namely, content, criterion, and construct validities. This view is fragmented and incomplete, especially in failing to take into account evidence of the value implications of score meaning as a basis for action and of the social consequences of test use. The new unified concept of validity interrelates these issues as fundamental aspects of a more comprehensive theory of construct validity. That is, unified validity integrates considerations of content, criteria, and consequences into a construct framework for empirically testing rational hypotheses about score meaning and theoretically relevant relationships, including those of both an applied and a scientific nature. The essence of unified validity is that the appropriateness, meaningfulness, and usefulness of score-based inferences are inseparable and that the unifying force behind this integration is the trustworthiness of empirically grounded score interpretation. Thus, construct validity conceived comprehensively becomes the whole of assessment validity for both scientific and applied purposes. In turn, assessment validation becomes scientific inquiry into score meaning and the consequences of score use.

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