DISC assessment

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DISC assessments are behavioral self-assessment tools based on psychologist William Moulton Marston's DISC emotional and behavioral theory, first published in 1928.[1] These assessments aim to predict job performance by categorizing individuals into four personality traits: dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance.

However, the scientific validity of DISC has been a subject of debate, with some considering it to be a pseudoscience. Critics question its reliability and accuracy in predicting job performance. The theory proposes four central traits to describe personality, but its scientific basis remains contested.


The first self-assessment based on Marston's DISC theory was created in 1956 by Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist. In 1956, Clarke created the Activity Vector Analysis, a checklist of adjectives on which he asked people to indicate descriptions that were accurate about themselves.[2] This self-assessment was intended to aid businesses in choosing qualified employees.[3] John Geier then developed DiSC (lower case 'i' intentional).[4]

Clarke and Peter Merenda published their findings on the new instrument in the January 1965 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology.[5] However, instead of using a checklist, the "Self Description" test asks respondents to make a choice between two or more terms. "Self Description" was used by John Geier to create the Personal Profile System in the 1970s.


The self-assessment tools are designed for use in personnel management in businesses. A DISC assessment helps to identify workstyle preferences, determines how someone would interact with others, and provides insight on work habits.

Organisations often use the DISC assessment for various purposes, including team building, leadership development, communication training, and conflict resolution. While it can provide valuable insights into individual and team dynamics, it's essential to interpret the results with caution and avoid oversimplifying complex human behaviour.[6]

DISC has been used to help determine a course of action when dealing with problems as a leadership team by taking the various aspects of each DISC type into account when solving problems or assigning jobs.[7]

Psychometric properties[edit]

The DISC assessments have demonstrated no ability to predict job performance as the validity is low. The assessment has high reliability, meaning that an individual will consistently get the same result over time.


A Russian pilot study found a coefficient of .89 for retesting after one week.[8]

A research paper in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology found acceptable levels of internal consistency in a normative DISC assessment, but also indications that the DISCUS-dimensions were not psychometrically independent, and that the DISC data structure could better be explained as combinations of the Big-Five personality traits than as independent traits.[9]


Psychologist Wendell Williams has criticized the use of DISC in the employee recruitment process.[10] In his criticism, Williams argues that a good job performance test should be well constructed, have test-retest reliability, have Criterion Validity for criteria of job performance, and incorporate the theory of job performance in the test's design.

A 2013 German study studied the validity and reliability of a DISC assessment, Persolog, to see if it was up to standards for the TBS-DTk [11] the test assessment system of the Diagnostics and Test Board of the Federation of German Psychological Associations. The study found that it "largely" met the requirements in terms of reliability but not at all in terms of validity.[12]


DISC wheel

The DISC theory describes personality through four central traits:[9]

  • Dominance: active use of force to overcome resistance in the environment
  • Inducement: use of charm in order to deal with obstacles
  • Submission: warm and voluntary acceptance of the need to fulfill a request
  • Compliance: fearful adjustment to a superior force.

Marston described the DISC characteristics in his 1928 book Emotions of Normal People, which he generated from emotions and behavior of people in the general population. According to Marston, people illustrate their emotions using four behavior types: Dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance.[13]

He argued that these behavioral types came from people's sense of self and their interaction with the environment.[14] 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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "How Swedes were fooled by one of the biggest scientific bluffs of our time". Vetenskap och Folkbildning. Retrieved 2021-06-13.
  2. ^ 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 (3): 337–345. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.1956.tb01072.x.
  3. ^ Prochaska, Frank; Sampayo, Jaime; Carter, Brent (2015). "DISC Factors". SSRN Electronic Journal. Elsevier BV. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2686882. ISSN 1556-5068.
  4. ^ InscapePublishing. (2003). DiSC Research Report (The DiSC [Copyright] & Indra [Copyright]): Inscape Publishing.
  5. ^ 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. PMID 14283649.
  6. ^ Christy, Stacey (June 2018). "DiSC Assessment Impact on Communication and Understanding of Self and Team". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Beamish, G. (2005). How chief executives learn and what behavior factors distinguish them from other people. Industrial and Commercial Training, 37(3), 138–144.
  8. ^ Chigova; Plyushch; Leskova (2019). "Organization of structured interaction on the base of psychographic characteristics within the model of personality traits DISC". IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. 483 (12097): 012097. Bibcode:2019MS&E..483a2097C. doi:10.1088/1757-899X/483/1/012097. S2CID 151063263.
  9. ^ a b Martinussen, Monica; Richardsen, Astrid M.; Vårum, Helge W. (5 August 2003). "Validation of an ipsative personality measure (DISCUS)". Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 42 (5): 411–416. doi:10.1111/1467-9450.00253. PMID 11771810.
  10. ^ "Dissecting the DISC". www.ere.net. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 2021-06-13.
  11. ^ "TBS-DTK". leibniz-psychology.org/en/.
  12. ^ "Persolog personality profile". Psychologische Rundschau. 64 (3): 189–191. July 2013. doi:10.1026/0033-3042/a000171.
  13. ^ Marston, William Moulton (1928). Emotions Of Normal People. Kegan Paul Trench Trubner And Company., Limited. pp. viii–x. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  14. ^ Marston, William M. (1928). Emotions of Normal People. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd. pp. 405.