The first steps of multi-criteria decision making (MCDM) are typically the decomposition and structuring of the decision problem at hand. As all subsequent process steps of MCDM are based on the initial structuring of the decision problem, the validity of the structure representing the decision problem is of particular importance for the quality of the decision making process. This paper seeks to further develop our understanding of validity in structuring multi-criteria decisions. For this purpose, we link the structuring of decision problems in MCDM to the theory of chunking, which describes how human cognition structures and perceives environmental information. Based on this, we propose that the validity of models representing multi-criteria decision problems can be assessed by evaluating the degree to which they match the structures formed by chunking. We discuss a preliminary framework of how the match between the cognitive and the MCDM model can be tested. To demonstrate how this framework can be utilized in research practice, we apply it to empirically show that algorithmic, bottom-up structuring of MCDM problems leads to valid goal-criteria hierarchies.