The History of DISC Profiling

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The History of DISC Profiling

DISC is the four quadrant behavioral model based on the work of William Moulton Marston PhD (1893–1947) to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation (otherwise known as environment). It therefore focuses on the styles and preferences of such behavior.
Marston graduated from doctoral studies at Harvard in the newly developing field of psychology and was also a consulting psychologist, researcher, and author or co-author of five books. His works were showcased in Emotions of Normal People in 1928. among others.
In 1948, Walter V. Clarke established his new business, Walter V. Clarke and Associates, to utilize the years of development and research he had undertaken after listening to a lecture at Harvard by Prescott Leckey which postulated that it was possible with a high degree of accuracy to determine and predict the long term behavior of an individual based upon a set of questions. Working with Marston, he was able to name four vectors of behavior, namely Assertiveness, Sociability,
Tranquility, and Dependence, and the means to identify the relative propensity of individuals to behave according to these predictive scales.
This system of dimensions of observable behavior has become known as the universal language of behavior. Researchhas found that characteristics of behavior can be grouped into these four major "personality styles" and they tend to exhibit specific characteristics common to that particular style. All individuals possess all four, but what differs from one to another is the extent of each.
For most, these types are seen in shades of grey rather than black or white, and within that, there is an interplay of behaviors, otherwise known as blends. The denotation of such blends starts with the primary (or stronger) type, followed by the secondary (or lesser) type, although all contribute more than just purely the strength of that "signal".
Having understood the differences between these blends makes it possible to integrate individual team members with less troubleshooting. In a typical team, there are varying degrees of compatibility, not just toward tasks but interpersonal relationships as well. However, when they are identified, energy can be spent on refining the results. Each of these types has its own unique value to the team, ideal environment, general characteristics, what the individual is motivated by, and value to team.


DISC is also used in an assortment of areas, including by many companies, HR professionals, organizations, consultants, coaches and trainers.
The assessments classify four aspects of behavior by testing a person's preferences in word associations (compare with Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). DISC is an acronym for:

Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness


Influence – relating to social situations and communication


Steadiness - (submission in Marston's time) – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness


Compliance - (or caution, compliance in Marston's time) – relating to structure and organization



    Marston's original questionnaires contained 24 questions, which has not altered much since. The questions will either make a statement and give adjectives to choose from and then ask you to select from four possible responses the one that is most like you and the one that is least like you. There are no wrong answers to the questionnaire since it is an inventory of your opinion about your responses to situations.


    The results of the completed questionnaires are tabulated to determine a number for each of the four personality traits of dominance, influence, steadiness and complience. You can use the profile to learn more about how you interact with others and how others influence you. Higher and lower numbers are not indications of weakness or strength but rather an indication of your natural tendencies. Most DISC reports include a narrative description of the results that can provide insight in why you do things the way you do. Teams will often compare DISC profiles with each other so that members learn how best to interact with each other. Business has found that certain personality traits are needed to best perform particular functions. Daring leaders often have a high D rating while great team players often have a lower D rating. This could be significant when forming a team. A great team player might not be the best choice for leading the team.


    The environment that the questions are asked in may make a difference in the outcome. Some people are more dominant in a work environment and less so at home. Others might be strong influencers at home and less so in external groups. Some modern DISC assessments try to identify the specific environment by stating the phrases in terms of work, leisure and home life.


    The DISC assessment has been used for many years and provides a method to examine your personality and reveal traits that may be hidden from you. By sharing your DISC profile with others you can help them to better understand how to interact with you.

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