Construct validity in psychological tests – the case of implicit social cognition

European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10 (1):1-24 (2020)
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This paper looks at the question of what it means for a psychological test to have construct validity. I approach this topic by way of an analysis of recent debates about the measurement of implicit social cognition. After showing that there is little theoretical agreement about implicit social cognition, and that the predictive validity of implicit tests appears to be low, I turn to a debate about their construct validity. I show that there are two questions at stake: First, what level of detail and precision does a construct have to possess such that a test can in principle be valid relative to it? And second, what kind of evidence needs to be in place such that a test can be regarded as validated relative to a given construct? I argue that construct validity is not an all-or-nothing affair. It can come in degrees, because both our constructs and our knowledge of the explanatory relation between constructs and data can vary in accuracy and level of detail, and a test can fail to measure all of the features associated with a construct. I conclude by arguing in favor of greater philosophical attention to processes of construct development.

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Uljana Feest
Universität Hannover


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