Types of Validity: Concurrent Validity and Construct Validity

March 29, 2019
Construct is defined as a hypothetical concept that is part of the theories which try to explain human behavior. For example, creativity or intelligence.

The concept of validity has evolved over the years. Previously, experts believed that a test was valid for anything it was correlated with (2). As we’ve already seen in other articles, there are four types of validity: content validity, predictive validity, concurrent validity, and construct validity. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at concurrent validity and construct validity.

People interpreting statistical data.

Concurrent validity

Concurrent validity refers to whether a test’s scores actually evaluate the test’s questions. In order to estimate this type of validity, test-makers administer the test and correlate it with the criteria. The criteria are measuring instruments that the test-makers previously evaluated.

This type of validity is similar to predictive validity. However, there are two main differences between these two validities (1):

  • In concurrent validity, the test-makers obtain the test measurements and the criteria at the same time.
  • The main purposes of predictive validity and concurrent validity are different. Concurrent validity’s main use is to find tests that can substitute other procedures that are less convenient for various reasons. For example, a collective intelligence test could be similar to an individual intelligence test.

However, the main problem with this type of validity is that it’s difficult to find tests that serve as valid and reliable criteria.

Construct validity

Construct is a hypothetical concept that’s a part of the theories that try to explain human behavior. For example, intelligence and creativity.

This type of validity answers the question: “How can the test score be explained psychologically?” The answer to this question can be thought of as elaborating a ‘mini-theory’ about the psychological test.

Therefore, construct validity consists of obtaining evidence to support whether the observed behaviors in a test are (some) indicators of the construct (1).

The construct validation process involves (1):

  • Formulation of hypotheses and relationships between construct elements, other construct theories, and other external constructs.
  • Selection of items or tests (indicators) that represent concrete manifestations of the construct.
  • Gathering of data.
  • The establishment of consistency between the data and hypothesis. Then, the examination of the degree to which the data could be explained by alternative hypotheses.

Procedure to establish construct validity

There are several procedures to establish construct validity (1):

  • Based on the theory held at the time of the test, the psychologist deducts certain hypotheses about the expected behavior of people who get different test scores.
  • Next, they gather data that confirms or denies those hypotheses.
  • Taking into account the gathered data, they decide whether the theory adequately explains the results. If that isn’t the case, they review the theory and repeat the process until they get a more accurate explanation.

In this sense, the validation process is in continuous reformulation and refinement. In truth, the studies’ results don’t really ‘validate’ or ‘prove’ the whole theory. This is due to the fact that you can never fully demonstrate a ‘construct’.

However, all you can do is simply accept it as the best definition you can work with. There are three possible reasons why the results are negative (1, 3):

  • First, the test may not actually measure the ‘construct’. At any rate, it’s not measuring what you want it to measure, although it is measuring something.
  • Second, the theoretical framework may be incorrect. Consequently, any deductions could also be incorrect.
  • Lastly, the experiment’s design didn’t allow appropriate testing of the hypothesis. Design failure is usually the easiest error to detect. However, accurately locating the error is a more difficult task. Of course, the ambiguous interpretation of the negative results is a drawback of the construct validity procedure.

Concurrent validity and construct validity shed some light when it comes to validating a test. Therefore, there are some aspects to take into account during validation.

A person looking at some statistics.

Practical implications of validating tests

Psychologists who use tests should take these implications into account for the four types of validation:

  • Before making decisions about individuals or groups, you must gather all the available information about the test.
  • For predicting or selecting, you must validate the test in the specific situations where you’ll use it.
  • In any situation, the psychologist must keep in mind that new information constantly modifies theories on the nature of traits and everything they measure.

Validity helps us analyze psychological tests. As you know, the more valid a test is, the better (without taking into account other variables). Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case in research, since there are other criteria that come into play, such as economic and availability factors.

  1. Tovar, J. (2007). Psicometría: tests psicométricos, confiabilidad y validez. Psicología: Tópicos de actualidad, 85-108.
  2. Muñiz, J. (Coord.) (1996). Psicometría. Madrid: Universitas.
  3. Cronbach, L. J. (1972). Fundamentos de la exploración psicológica. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva.