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How Reliable is Face Validity for Research and Surveying?

How Reliable is Face Validity for Research and Surveying?
Often considered to be the least sophisticated measure of validity, face validity is one of the easiest methods of validity that can be applied in research.
Vrinda Varnekar
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Quick Fact:
Validity can be measured in various ways, and each way measures a different validity aspect of that test. Some of the different kinds of validity are:

◆ Content Validity
◆ Construct Validity
◆ Discriminant Validity
◆ Internal Validity
◆ External Validity
◆ Face Validity
The concept of validity has been studied by psychologists in great detail, and Kelly (1927) determined that "A test is valid if it measures what it claims to measure." This means that the validity or the acceptance level of that test is high, only if it produces the desired results, and nothing else. For instance, an intelligence test is valid if it measures intelligence only, and not memory or anything else.
► What Is Face Validity?
Face validity is often said to be the least sophisticated and the simplest method of measuring validity of a survey. If the information "appears" to be valid at first glance to the untrained eye, (observers, people taking the test) it is said to have face validity. Face validity takes into consideration only the face value of the information, and not its reliability or accuracy.
It is also known as 'surface validity', and is a very subjective and superficial method of measuring validity. It is labeled to be a subjective method as what may seem highly valid at face value for one person may not necessarily seem equally valid to another person. Hence, it is advisable to consider more than two people's opinions to check face validity.
Face validity is considered to be a superficial method of validity measure as it only takes into consideration what the research or survey appears to measure, and not what it really measures. For instance, if a survey appears to measure consumer preferences but really measures consumer needs instead, the face validity gives a wrong impression of the research.
Determining Face Validity

Determining face validity can be quite a difficult task in case of complicated extensive research and surveys. Generally, researchers build up their survey or research and give it to their colleagues or superiors for review, who in turn give their reviews regarding the work to the researcher. These reviews are based on the appearance of the information and not on an in-depth study. Thus, researchers know if their work appears to be ethical and reliable at face value, and they can go ahead with developing it. However, face validity cannot be trusted wholly.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Face Validity

Advantages
  • It is relatively easier to apply than other measures of validity.
  • It is not as time-consuming as other validity measures.
  • The reviewer only needs to glance through the research to see if it makes sense; there is no need of extensive study of the information to determine its validity.
  • High face validity helps those taking the survey understand it better, thus giving more accurate answers.
  • High face validity helps participants and researchers feel confident about the survey and its results.
Disadvantages
  • If face validity is the only form of validity of research, then it cannot be relied upon as it is the least sophisticated and the weakest validity measure. Some experts also suggest that this validity cannot be even classed as real validity.
  • Since face validity is a subjective measure, what may be valid for one person may not be so for the other, which causes confusion.
  • Even if a piece of research appears to be valid (has high face validity), that does not necessarily mean that it is actually proven to be valid and reliable. Hence, it really isn't possible to tell how useful or correct a survey/piece of research is unless it is measured using other forms of validity apart from face validity.
  • Sometimes, research surveys may contain questions which might offend the participants, but are crucial for completing the research agenda. At such times, if the survey has high face validity, participants may refuse to answer those questions or might answer them in a biased manner, which will lead to wrong information getting recorded.
Reliability Of Face Validity

The reliability of a survey is just as important as its validity. Just because a piece of information collected through a survey is valid, it definitely doesn't prove that it can be relied upon, too. Reliability is actually the consistency of that information. If a survey is reliable, it means that the questions asked in that survey elicits the same responses every time it is taken, under similar conditions.

In case of face validity, the research cannot be relied upon unless proven otherwise through other validation measures. Unless the research is proved to be reliable, it cannot be considered applicable, which practically makes it useless. Hence, a survey result should be reliable even if it does not have high face validity. Face validity cannot be relied upon unless it has other measures supporting it.
As we have seen from the advantages and disadvantages of face validation, we can conclude that it cannot be used as the ONLY method of measuring validity. However, depending on each individual situation, it might be a good measure of measuring validity if it is supported by other validation forms such as construct validity or content validity.