What is DISC?

DISC is the universal language of observable human behavior, or “how we act”. DISC does not measure education, experience, values or intelligence. It simply measures an individual’s behaviors, or how they communicate.

DISC is not a personality test; it examines only observable behavior and emotions. It is correctly called a behavioral style indicator or a behavioral analysis.

DISC is an acronym for Direct, Influencing, Steady and Compliant behaviors.

DISC shows no preference to race, gender, ethnicity, or religious affiliation.

DISC identifies how people respond to problems, people, pace and procedures.

DISC provides a nonjudgmental language for exploring behavioral issues across four primary dimensions:

Dominance: Direct and Decisive.

D's are strong-willed, strong-minded people who like accepting challenges, taking action, and getting immediate results

Influence: Optimistic and Outgoing.

I's are "people people" who like participating on teams, sharing ideas, and energizing and entertaining others.

Steadiness: Sympathetic and Cooperative.

 S's are helpful people who like working behind the scenes, performing in consistent and predictable ways, and being good listeners.

Conscientiousness: Concerned and Correct.

C's are sticklers for quality and like planning ahead, employing systematic approaches, and checking and re-checking for accuracy.

What is the history of DISC?

People have been observing others and drawing conclusions as early as 444B.C., beginning with Empodocles and Hippocrates. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the major developer of the DISC language, Dr. William Moulton Marston, began his work. A scholar of Harvard University, Marston spent many years as a teaching and consulting psychologist. In 1928, he published “The Emotions of Normal People” in which he described the theory we use today. Marston did not invent the DISC behavioral measurement system, nor did he apply it to the workplace. Marston did make a significant contribution to the observation of human behavior.


Who is William Moulton Marston?

 Dr. William Moulton Marston (May 9, 1893 – May 2, 1947) was an American psychologist, feminist theorist, inventor, and comic book author who created the character Wonder Woman. Two women, his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne, (who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship), served as exemplars for the character and greatly influenced her creation. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.

Early life and career

Born in Saugus, Massachusetts, William Marston was educated at Harvard University, receiving his B.A. in 1915, an L.L.B. in 1918, and a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1921. After teaching at American University in Washington D.C. and Tufts University in Medford MA, Marston traveled to Universal Studios in California in 1929, where he spent a year as Director of Public Services.

Psychologist and Inventor

Marston is credited as the creator of the systolic blood-pressure test used in an attempt to detect deception, which became one component of the modern polygraph. According to their son, Marston's wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, was also involved in the development of the systolic blood-pressure test: "According to Marston’s son, it was his mother Elizabeth, Marston’s wife, who suggested to him that 'When she got mad or excited, her blood pressure seemed to climb' (Lamb, 2001). Although Elizabeth is not listed as Marston’s collaborator in his early work, Lamb, Matte (1996), and others refer directly and indirectly to Elizabeth’s work on her husband’s deception research. She also appears in a picture taken in his polygraph laboratory in the 1920s (reproduced in Marston, 1938)." This would be the basis for Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth.

From this work, Marston had been convinced that women were more honest and reliable than men, and could work faster and more accurately. During his lifetime, Marston championed the causes of women of the day.

Marston was also a writer of essays in popular psychology.

In 1928 he published Emotions of Normal People, which elaborated the DISC Theory. Marston viewed people behaving along two axes, with their attention being either passive or active, depending on the individual's perception of his or her environment as either favorable or antagonistic. By placing the axes at right angles, four quadrants form with each describing a behavioral pattern:

Dominance produces activity in an antagonistic environment Inducement produces activity in a favorable environment Steadiness produces passivity in a favorable environment Compliance produces passivity in an antagonistic environment.

Marston posited that there is a male notion of freedom that is inherently anarchic and violent, and an opposing female notion based on "Love Allure" that leads to an ideal state of submission to loving authority.

Wonder Woman Creation

In an October 25, 1940, interview conducted by former student Olive Byrne (under the pseudonym 'Olive Richard') and published in Family Circle, titled "Don't Laugh at the Comics", Marston described what he saw as the great educational potential of comic books (a follow up article was published two years later in 1942.) This article caught the attention of comics publisher Max Gaines, who hired Marston as an educational consultant for National Periodicals and All-American Publications, two of the companies that would merge to form the future DC Comics.

In the early 1940s the DC line was dominated by superpowered male characters such as the Green Lantern, Batman, and its flagship character, Superman. According to the Fall 2001 issue of the Boston University alumni magazine, it was his wife Elizabeth's idea to create a female superhero:

“ William Moulton Marston, a psychologist already famous for inventing the polygraph (forerunner to the magic lasso), struck upon an idea for a new kind of superhero, one who would triumph not with fists or firepower, but with love. 'Fine,' said Elizabeth. 'But make her a woman.' ” Marston introduced the idea to Max Gaines, cofounder (along with Jack Liebowitz) of All-American Publications. Given the go-ahead, Marston developed Wonder Woman with Elizabeth (whom Marston believed to be a model of that era's unconventional, liberated woman). In creating Wonder Woman, Marston was also inspired by Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polygamous/polyamorous relationship. Marston's pseudonym, Charles Moulton, combined his own and Gaines' middle names.

Marston was also the creator of a systolic blood-pressure measuring apparatus, which was crucial to the development of the polygraph (lie detector). Marston's experience with polygraphs convinced him that women were more honest and reliable than men, and could work more efficiently.

In a 1943 issue of The American Scholar, Marston wrote:

“ Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman. ”


Marston used a pen name that combined his middle name with that of Gaines to create Charles Moulton. Marston intended his character, which he called "Suprema", to be "tender, submissive, peaceloving as good women are," combining "all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." His character was a native of an all-female utopia who became a crime-fighting U.S. government agent, using her superhuman strength and agility, and her ability to force villains to tell the truth by binding them with her magic lasso. Her appearance, including her heavy silver bracelets (which she used to deflect bullets), was based somewhat on Olive Byrne.

Editor Sheldon Mayer replaced the name "Suprema" with "Wonder Woman", and the character made her debut in All Star Comics #8 (Dec. 1941). The character next appeared in Sensation Comics #1 (Jan. 1942), and six months later, Wonder Woman #1 debuted. Except for four months in 2006, the series has been in print ever since, and now appears bi-monthly. The stories were initially written by Marston and illustrated by newspaper artist Harry Peter. During his life Marston had written many articles and books on psychological topics, but his last six years of writing were devoted to his comics creation.

William Moulton Marston died of cancer on May 2, 1947 in Rye, New York. After his death, Elizabeth and Olive continued to live together until Olive's death in the late 1980s; Elizabeth died in 1993, aged 100.

Do I have to be DISC Certified to use DISC Reports?

While DISC Certification is not required, we do highly recommend certification to all internal trainers that will be using the assessment in your organization. We offer DISC Certification Train-the-Trainer sessions three to four times per year in Austin, TX. We can also come to your location and provide this training on-site. 

How can I use DISC in Leadership Development?

Leadership Development consists of a great number of topics, but the topic most needed is communication. Leaders in today’s business culture must be able to communicate with their followers. The DISC behavioral profile provides the basis for helping leaders understand their personal communication style and the styles of others. Behavioral style flexibility is necessary to meet the style needs of others and to communicate effectively. The DISC profile provides the opportunity to understand the need of the followers and through flexibility in style, have an effective interaction.

DISC can also show what is needed to meet the needs of the job. A Work Environment Profile will give a DISC graph of the job from the perspective of the job. This allows the leader to coach the individual to meet the job needs through a manner that the individual can understand.

Leadership Resources can provide resources for developing leaders in many different ways from a leadership development curriculum to coaching by phone.

Call and discuss your needs with one of our solutions team members and let us provide options for implementation. 


How can I use DISC in Hiring and Selection?

In a continually evolving workforce, jobs are changing and their requirements are not always clear. TTI’s patented job benchmarking process is a unique and effective solution because it benchmarks a specific job, not the people doing the job. To do this, we let the job talk through an interactive process and an assessment on the job, not the individual. Many of our assessment products can be used to complete a job benchmark, depending on the position itself and your needs. However, the job benchmarking process remains the same for all benchmarking tools.

The Job Benchmarking Process

1. Identify the job to be benchmarked
2. Identify Subject Matter Experts
3. Identify Key Accountabilities
4. Prioritize and weigh Key Accountabilities
5. Respond to job assessment individually
6. Create a Multiple Respondent report to combine results
7. Compare the personal talent to the job benchmark
8. Discuss the results and implementation strategy

Call today for more details on the job benchmarking process and how to use assessments in your selection process, 800-746-1656. 


How can I use DISC in Team building?

Team building is primarily helping people work together better. There are seven basic - building blocks to team building:

1. Customer Focus
2. Developing and Setting Goals
3. Trust and Open Communication
4. Conflict Resolution
5. Setting Ground Rules
6. Clear Roles and Expectations
7. Consensus Decisions

Although Trust and Open Communication are only one of the seven building blocks, communication exists within all seven blocks and is an essential component for team success.

The DISC profile is useful in Team building in many ways.

When a Team Wheel is created, the team has an opportunity to see the dynamics that exists within their team and can use the combined graphs as a way to determine areas that need to be emphasized as well as areas where conflicts exist. Leadership Resources has developed a list of questions that need to be asked while referencing the team graph.

Understanding the DISC graph of the customer allows the team to use style flexibility to enhance the customer relationship. Recognizing the advantage of the differences in team members' graphs can also reduce conflict and provide a basis for developing trust.

Knowing each team members DISC graph can also provide information for specific ground rules that will allow the team to work together better, as well as setting roles and expectations based on the individual DISC strengths.

All of the above allow the team to learn through DISC a number of ways to enhance the team.

Leadership Resources has developed a number of resources and exercises for teams based on the DISC profile.


What are the laws/guidelines concerning assessments in hiring and selection?

The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) does not approve specific assessments for use in hiring and selection. Their guidelines state that when assessments are used, they need to be valid and they need to be relevant to the job so as not to create a disparate impact when hiring. Our assessments have been validated and because we benchmark each specific job, not people, our assessments are all related to the specific job at hand. Below are a couple of documents which should help as well.

Article 1 - Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Employment Testing Guide

Article 2 - Testing and Assessment: An Employer's Guide to Good Practices


What is the difference between DISC and MBTI?

The MBTI profiles personality. DISC profiles behavior. These are two very distinct concepts. Personality is defined by Webster’s New Riverside University Dictionary as “the pattern of collective character, behavioral, temperamental, emotional, and mental traits of an individual.” Behavior is defined as “one’s actions or reactions under specified circumstances” The distinction, then, we could make is that personality is our overall way of looking at a person – the totality of qualities, cultural values, beliefs, emotional make-up, skills, abilities, and traits peculiar to an individual. Behavior, on the other hand, is the way we respond to a specific situation. It is the outward expression of who we are.

Article1 DISC vs MBTI

Article2 DISC vs MBTI

Why are there so many different versions of DISC?

Why are there so many different versions of DISC? Even though Marston developed the D.I.S.C model, the DISC test or assessment, to prove his theory of the emotions of people within their environment, he never copyrighted his disc profile test. Currently there are over a dozen DISC-type models in the marketplace, and since the DISC concept is in the public domain, other iterations may continue to emerge. 

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