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DISC is a behaviour assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Marston. Marston's theory centers on four different personality traits: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. This theory was then developed into a personality assessment tool (personality profile test) by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke (July 26, 1905 - Jan. 1, 1978).
There are many different versions of the test; the most prominent is probably DiSC (distinguishing itself with a lowercase "i") marketed by Inscape Publishing (subsequently acquired by John Wiley and Sons). Other DISC tests are marketed by The Institute of Motivational Living, PeopleKeys, Axiom Software and by Thomas International as the Thomas Personal Profile Analysis (PPA). Because the versions of the assessment do vary, practitioners are cautioned to ask for evidence for the validity of a prospective version before using.
Marston was an accomplished man who was not only a lawyer and a psychologist; he also produced the first functional lie detector polygraph, authored self-help books and created the Wonder Woman comic. His major contribution to psychology came when he generated the DISC characteristics of emotions and behavior of normal people. Marston, after conducting research on human emotions, published his findings in 1928 in his book titled Emotions of Normal People. In this book, he explained his theory that people illustrate their emotions through behavior using the four behavior types called Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). Also, he argued that these behavioral types came from people’s sense of self and their interaction with the environment. He included two dimensions that influenced people’s emotional behavior. The first dimension is whether a person views his environment as favorable or unfavorable. The second dimension is whether a person perceives himself as having control or lack of control over his environment.
- Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
- Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
- Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favorable.
- Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavorable.
 Although William Moulton Marston contributed to the creation of the DISC Assessment, he did not create it or even intend to use DISC as an assessment. In 1956, Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist, was able to accidentally construct the DISC assessment using William Moulton Marston’s theory of the DISC model. He accomplished this by publishing the Activity Vector Analysis, a checklist of adjectives on which he asked people to indicate descriptions that were accurate about themselves. This assessment was intended for use in businesses needing assistance in choosing qualified employees.
His assessment was later amended by Walter Clarke Associates and called a self-description. Also, it no longer required a checklist. Instead, test takers chose from two or more terms. Even with all of William Moulton Marston's and Walter Clarke's developments, the DISC assessment still had further developments to undertake. John Greier contributed to this assessment by producing the DISC personality profile in 1958 based on the works of Marston and Clarke. Greier conducted hundreds of clinical interviews which assisted him to further progress the fifteen patterns which Walter Clarke had exposed.
Since then, a number of publishers have updated and/or generated their own versions of the DISC assessment. These have had varying degrees of validity and reliability; it has been questioned, however, whether DISC assessment in general has more than a degree of scientific validity as a psychometric instrument.
Use of DISC Assessment
The DISC assessment can be used for a variety of real-life situations. Many companies use it as a way to screen potential employees, with the thought that a certain personality type would be better or worse in certain jobs or positions.
It can also be used in an educational environment, especially in the development of courses for students. In an online setting, the results from the DISC assessment can be used to better understand the personality and needs of the students. This is especially important because the online setting does not allow for a lot of interaction between the students or teachers. Instructors can use the data from the test to create better lessons that are more conducive to the various students, in addition to having a better concept of how to help or motivate the student in general. Furthermore, one study showed that students' DISC temperament or type helped determine their success in certain classes, which shows the influence one's DISC classification could have on his or her education.
Another field in which DISC assessment can be used is leadership. There are different leadership methods and styles that coincide with each personality type, which could help leaders be more effective. DISC has also been used to help determine a course of action when dealing with problems as a leadership team—that is, taking the various aspects of each type into account when solving problems or assigning jobs.
The DISC assessment tool is used to identify 15 patterns:
- Objective Thinker
- Result oriented
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument
- Keirsey Temperament Sorter
- Personality psychology
- Learning styles
- Hartman Personality Profile
- SalesMatch Behavioural Profile
- Marston, William M. (1928). Emotions of Normal People. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. ltd. p. 405.
- PeopleKeys, 2011
- Duck, 2006
- Blignaut, P. (2008). The influence of temperament style on a student’s choice of and performance in a computer programming course. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(3), 1010–1020.
- Beamish, G. (2005). How chief executives learn and what behaviour factors distinguish them from other people. Industrial and Commercial Training, 37(3), 138 - 144.
- Sriram, Gayathri. "Communications: simple, easy, and stress-free!". Pure Visibility. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
- Duck, J. (2006). Making the connection: Improving virtual team performance through behavioral assessment profiling and behavioral cues. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 33, 358-9. Retrieved from http://sbaweb.wayne.edu/~absel/bkl/.\vol33\33cb.pdf