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DISC is a behavior assessment tool based on the DISC theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centers on four different personality traits: Dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. This theory was then developed into a personality assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.
There are many different versions of the test. 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 his 1928 book called Emotions of Normal People in which he explained that people illustrate their emotions using four behavior types: 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. His work was the foundation of the DiSC assessment that has been used by more than 50 million people since it was first introduced in 1972.
- 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. In 1984, using Greier's Personality Profile version of the DISC, Jack Morrison conducted a correlation study of the DISC with the 16 Personalities Factors Questionnaire (16PF). Morrison found enough significantly high correlations between the 16 PF and the DISC to conclude that the DISC measures certain dimensions of personality held in common with the 16PF. In laymen's terms, it measures what it purports to measure.
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.
Companies use the DISC assessment 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.
The assessment can be used to determine 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
- 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.
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