DiSC History

The Beginning of D. I. S. C. : William Marston (1928)

If you are reading this page, you might have wondered “Who invented DiSC?” The DISC Model continues to be one of the most popular four quadrant behavioral and personality models. Wiley’s Everything DiSC Profile, DiSC Classic Profile, and other non-Wiley DISC assessments are based on the research of William Moulton Marston Ph.D. (1893-1947).

William Marston

Marston was influenced by his contemporaries such as Carl Jung and Sigmund Frued who were focused on diseases that affected people’s behaviors and caused them to be “abnormal”. In contrast, Marston sought to find theory to explain the behavior of “normal” or “healthy” people within a specific situation or environment.

Marston was a consulting psychologist, researcher and authored or co-authored five books. His work is published in the American Journal of Psychology, reference books including The Encyclopedia of Psychology, and The Encyclopedia Britannica.

However, in Marston’s 1928 “Emotions of Normal People” he introduced his theory. In this book, he classified four categories of human behavioral type, style or temperament and began the D. I. S. C. theory that has built the DiSC model we know today:

  • Dominance
  • Inducement (Influence)
  • Submission (Steadiness)
  • Compliance (Conscientious)

While Marston saw that a person had a primary ‘style’, he viewed a person as a ‘color-wheel’ in that the colors of each style blended into each other, and a person’s behavior was made up of a little bit of every style.

It’s important to note that Marston did not develop an assessment. Marston created a theory which many publishers use to create their own DISC models.

Fun fact; in addition to his work on DISC and understanding personality, Maston also created the lie detector test, and he introduced “Wonder Woman” into the DC comic strip universe.

The DISC Assessment: 1950-1970s

Since it’s creation, DISC has continued to evolve. In 1950, a staff member of the Walter Clarke Associates developed an assessment which they called Self Description. It evolved from the checklist format to a forced-choice instrument to minimize the influence of socially desirable responses.

The Original DiSC Logo

In the 1970’s, a faculty member in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Health Sciences, named Dr. John Geier built upon the Self Description profile and built the Personal Profile System. Dr. Geier would later leave the University of Minnesota to start a company called Performax. Performax would later become Inscape Publishing, and is now called Workplace Learning Solutions Group at Wiley. It was during this period the DiSC Assessment was created with the lowercase ‘i’.

Geier’s DiSC Assessment was a forced-choice questionnaire and the results were collected in a tally box and plotted on a line graph. The graphs formed patterns, illustrated by the shape of the line, which Geir collected pattern descriptions through clinical interviews with hundreds of people. It is through these interviews that the 15 unique combinations of the four styles became known as the Classical Profile Patterns which is still used in the DiSC Classic Paper Profile, and the Online DiSC Classic Assessments.

DiSC Today

75 years after the publication of Marston’s book, over 50 million people have taken various forms of this profile throughout the world, and DISC is translated into 50 languages by a multitude of publishers.

The Everything DiSC Logo

While there are many versions of DISC, a majority of people will recognize the assessment from Tony Robbins, Assessments 24×7, or Wiley Publishing (Everything DiSC).

John Geier’s company and DiSC product has formed into the leading publisher of DiSC with the release of the Everything DiSC Model. The Everything DiSC model was designed to go back to the basis of Marston’s model and uses a circumplex (circular graph) which connects to Marston’s idea of a color wheel. This model is the only model that uses adaptive testing to create the most personalized DiSC assessment.


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