DiSC® assessments and profiles are commonly used for a variety of purposes, from workplaces to job coaching offices – even individuals who just want to know more about themselves. It may sound like a new idea, but the roots of DiSC® history and theory go back nearly 100 years!
DiSC®: History of an Idea
In the early 20th century, William Moulton Marston, Ph.D., developed his theory of human behavior. Marston believed that most folks exhibited one of two kinds of behavior based on how they saw their environment. People generally demonstrated active or passive behavior, and that depended on whether they found themselves in a situation that they felt was antagonistic or favorable to them.
Given two kinds of behavior and two kinds of settings, this led to Marston’s notion of four possible “types” of people: dominant, influencing, steady, and cautious. Marston published his work in his book Emotions of Normal People, in 1928. He never carried his ideas through to practical applications, though.
About ten years later, industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke applied Marston’s theory to practical purposes. Clarke first developed a general checklist assessment tool in the 1940s, and then a more formal Activity Vector Analysis tool in the 1950s.
He did modify Marston’s work slightly; Clarke’s assessments measured subjects along a scale of aggressive, sociable, stable, and avoidant behaviors. By identifying a pattern of behavior, it was suggested that it could be possible to predict how that person might behave in a given situation or setting, like a workplace.
An Assessment for Today
Over the past several decades, various researchers and companies have made refinements and adjustments to the work of Marston and Clarke, until it began to resemble the DiSC® analysis many people are familiar with today. Some test developers and administrators use alternative vocabulary to describe the behavior patterns identified by testing; however, all pretty much align with the foundations of the original four quadrants.
Today, DiSC® stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. DiSC® analysis is generally used to identify a person’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses, and also note possible areas for improvement.
DiSC® history, checklists, and assessment tools provide a fascinating exploration of how to describe common human behavior patterns. This knowledge is used for a variety of purposes today, from self-assessment to workplace training and team building activities. With insight into their own patterns of behavior through testing and analysis, and how those patterns can influence interpersonal relationships, people can better work together and minimize conflict.