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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 which are currently Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). This theory was then developed into a behavioral assessment tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.
Marston was a lawyer and a psychologist; he also contributed to the first polygraph test, authored self-help books and created the character Wonder Woman. He generated the DISC characteristics of emotions and behavior of normal people (at the time, 'normal' had the meaning of 'typical' rather than an antonym for 'abnormal'). Marston hypothesised that our behaviour is influenced by ‘psychonic energy’ that is transferred through a web of nerve cells he named ‘psychons’.
He published his findings in his 1928 book called Emotions of Normal People in which he explained that the four personality types (yellow, green, blue and red) arise as variations between different people in the structure of their psychonic network. According to Marston, people illustrate their emotions using four behavior types: Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). He argued that these behavioral types came from people's sense of self and their interaction with the environment. He based the four types on two underlying dimensions that influenced people's emotional behavior. The first dimension is whether a person views their environment as favorable or unfavorable. The second dimension is whether a person perceives themselves as having control or lack of control over their environment.
Although Marston contributed to the theory of the DISC assessment, he did not create it. In 1956, Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist, constructed an assessment based on Marston's theory. Clarke created 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.
Merenda, Peter F. and Clarke published their findings on a new instrument in the January 1965 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology." Instead of using a checklist, the "Self Discription" test forced respondents to make a choice between two or more terms. Factor analysis of this assessment added to the support of a DISC-based instrument. "Self Discription" was used by John Geier to create the Personal Profile System in the 1970s. Geier's DiSC assessment would eventually become Everything DiSC which is now owned by John Wiley & Sons.
DISC has 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 most comprehensive documentation of the validity of DISC model and its measurement is found in the Everything DiSC Manual. Analyses across two samples produced median scale internal reliabilities of .83 and .87. Analyses produced a median two-week scale test-retest coefficient of .86. Multidimensional scaling analyses, factor analyses, and scale intercorrelation matrices show strong support for the circumplex structure of the model and its measurement. Scales measuring constructs that are theoretically opposite show strong negative correlations (i.e., median correlation of -.73) and scales measuring constructs that are theoretically adjacent show strong positive correlations (i.e., median correlation of .45). Correlations with the NEO-PI-3 (a measure of the five factor model of personality) indicate strong, statistically significant correlations with the domain scales of extraversion (r=.73) and agreeableness (r=.48), but minimal correlations with the other domain scales, as predicted under the theoretical model. Correlations of the Everything DiSC assessment with both the NEO-PI-3 and Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire show correlations as expected under the theoretical model. For example, the D Scale demonstrates its strongest correlations with the Dominance, Independence, and Assertiveness scales. Correlations between the Everything DiSC assessment and 360 data also show correlations as expected under the theoretical model. For example, of the 24 behavioral scales measured on the 360 assessment, the D scale correlated most positively with the Showing Confidence, Promoting Bold Action, and Taking Charge rater scales and most negatively with the Maintaining Composure, Showing Diplomacy, and Showing Modesty rater scales. These findings have been independently reviewed and certified by DNV-GL, a third-party reviewer of assessments under the standards defined by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations’ (EFPA) Test Review Model.
1. Peer reviewed research in the following areas is limited or non-existent:
- Peer-reviewed studies that support the theory of William Moulton Marston
- Peer-reviewed studies that support the theory of Walter Clarke
2. There are many psychological societies that have not published reviews for the DISC model or its measurement. There are worldwide various representative bodies for psychology and psychologists that are responsible for the promotion of excellence and ethical practice in science, education, and application of the discipline, such as the British Psychological Society. These bodies have various Psychological Testing Centres in which hundreds of tests and theories are independently tested. The British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel, Training & Development (CIPD) do not speak to the use of DISC.
3. Various writers have written about the shortcomings of DISC. New York Times journalist Emma Goldberg compares tests like DISC with astrology.
4. People who use DISC usually recognize their personality in the test results. Users should be aware, however, that this phenomenon may, in part, be due to a phenomenon known as confirmation bias.
5. In modern psychological research, there is concern that personality based predictions of behavior may differ by context. This context element is not integrated in models like DISC or the five factor model, without explicit effort to contextualize the model.
6. The DNV-GL has been given critique for not testing on empirical grounds: 'The cold reality is that there is little obvious outcome-differentiation between the deployment of a DiSC, MBTI, or Brand X assessment which fails all psychometric evidence-base hurdles when compared with a CEB or Hogan psychometric masterpiece'.
7. The book Surrounded by Idiots, written by author Thomas Erikson, popularised DISC. It was given the Fraudster of the year Award in 2018 by Swedish Skeptics, mainly for making scientific claims that were not supported by any scientific research.
- Learning styles
- Personality psychology
- Marston, William M. (1928). Emotions of Normal People. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. pp. 405.
- Wallace, S. Rains; Clarke, WALTER V.; Dry, RAYMOND J. (September 1956). "The Activity Vector Analysis as a Selector of Life Insurance Salesmen". Personnel Psychology. 9: 337–345. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.1956.tb01072.x.
- Merenda, Peter F.; Clarke, Walter V. (January 1965). "Self description and personality measurement". Journal of Clinical Psychology. 21: 52–56. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(196501)21:1<52::AID-JCLP2270210115>3.0.CO;2-K.
- "DISC History". Center for Internal Change. Center for Internal Change. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- Beamish, G. (2005). How chief executives learn and what behavior factors distinguish them from other people. Industrial and Commercial Training, 37(3), 138–144.
- "Shortcomings of DISC Profiling". www.salesteamfocus.com. Retrieved 2020-10-22.
- Goldberg, Emma (2019-09-18). "Personality Tests Are the Astrology of the Office (Published 2019)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-22.
- "context" (PDF).
- Barrett, Paul (2017-12-31). "The EFPA Test-Review Model: When Good Intentions Meet a Methodological Thought Disorder". Behavioral Sciences. 8 (1). doi:10.3390/bs8010005. ISSN 2076-328X. PMC 5791023. PMID 29403661.
- "Personality Test Pseudoscience – Swedish Edition". NeuroLogica Blog. 2020-01-17. Retrieved 2020-10-25.
- 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 https://absel-ojs-ttu.tdl.org/absel/index.php/absel/article/view/544