The development of DISC is attributed to William Moulton Marston, PhD who set out to examine observable “normal” behavior in a particular environment. Marston left behind a vast legacy across several disciplines. Marston was a lawyer, psychologist and author or co-author of several books and articles, and many have come to know him for his work on the systolic blood pressure test that lead to the invention of the polygraph. Others recognize him as the creator of the Wonder Woman comic and a champion of women’s causes.
Marston graduated from doctoral studies at Harvard in the newly developing field of psychology. His landmark book, “Emotions of Normal People,” published in 1928 showcased his extensive research and theory behind the DISC model. He found that behavioral characteristics can be grouped together in four main divisions called personality styles. People with similar styles tend to exhibit specific behavioral characteristics common to that style. Marston named four dimensions of behavior, and created a means to identify the relative propensity of individuals to behave accordingly. The acronym DISC is represented by:
- D (Drive): Direct, Decisive, High ego strength, Problem solver, Risk taker, Self-starter
- I (Influence): Enthusiastic, Trusting, Optimistic, Persuasive, Talkative, Impulsive, Emotional
- S (Steadiness): Good listener, Team player, Possessive, Steady, Predictable, Understanding
- C (Compliance): Accurate, Analytical, Conscientious, Fact-finder, Systematic, High standards
For the most part, there are no pure styles, but all people share these four styles in varying degrees of intensity represented by graphs with a midline. These composite styles are known as style blends, each with their own characteristics, preferences, fears, strengths and limitations.
Fast forward to the present and this system has become known as the universal language of behavior because of it’s simplicity and sincerity. The language is easily learned, understood, and administered by widespread audiences. Since it has been established, DISC has consistently proven to be a reliable, valid, and legally-defensible instrument for HR, managing, filtering, hiring, coaching, consulting, training, counseling, and countless other fields and functions.