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Kelly uses the word validation in two senses. One usage is to refer to the process of testing out construing.  Our ways of making sense of things are tried out by means of our behaving in ways consistent with our interpretations. For Kelly our behaviour is an experiment. We then can determine if our construing helps us to make sense of our world, or not. Validation is closely linked both with Kelly’s metaphor of the person as a potential scientist (Landfield, 1988; Vaughn, 1996) and his later formulation of the experience cycle (Walker, Oades, Caputi, Stevens & Crittenden, 2000). Other people are critical to validation, with direct and vicarious feedback important, as well as our capacity to construe others’ construing.

(2002) has used the term nonvalidation to refer to failure to test out construing, the opposite of validation.

With regard to validation as a process, Button (1996) has pointed out the origins of the word in the Latin verb ‘valere’ (to strengthen). He suggested that it is preferable to apply validation to the strengthening or weakening of our theories of the world, rather than the absolute confirmation/disconfirmation of Kelly’s original formulation. Our theory-testing is more cumulative than absolute. This interpretation is consistent with work by Bannister (1963) on schizophrenia, the genesis of which he associates with a history of serial invalidation. 

But Kelly also used the term validation to refer to one of the outcomes of this testing out – when the prediction we make is confirmed. When the prediction is not confirmed he termed this invalidation.


  • Bannister, D. (1963). The genesis of schizophrenic thought disorder: a serial invalidation hypothesis.  British Journal of Psychiatry, 109, 680-686.
  • Button, E. (1996). Validation and invalidation.  In J.W. Scheer & A. Catina (Eds.) Empirical Constructivism in Europe: The Personal Construct Approach.  Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag, pp. 142-148.
  • Landfield (1988). Personal science and the concept of validation.  International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 1, 237-249.
  • Vaughn, C. (1996). Commitment, hostility and the scientist-as-person.  Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 9, 63-68.
  • Walker, B.M. (2002).  Nonvalidation vs. (in)validation: Implications for theory and practice.  In J.D. Raskin & S.K. Bridges (Eds) Studies in Meaning: Exploring Constructivist Psychology. New York: Pace University.
  • Walker, B.M., Oades, L.G., Caputi, P., Stevens C.D. & Crittenden, N. (2000). Going beyond the scientist metaphor:  from validation to experience cycles.  In J.W. Scheer (Ed.) The Person in society: Challenges to a Constructivist Theory. Giessen, Germany: Psychosozial-Verlag.

Beverly M. Walker

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004