DISC Tool: What Does Wonder Woman Have to Do with the Study of Personality?

December 25, 2018

At the beginning of the last century, Dr. William Moulton Marston theorized his DISC behavior assessment tool for the study of personality. He defined four personality traits: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).

Around the year 400 BCE, Hippocrates developed the theory of the four humors. According to it, the four human bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) had to always be balanced. However, one of them always predominated in every person, leading them to have a certain temperament: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic.

Some 1500 years later, the eighth edition of All Stars Comics went on sale. It featured a new superhero named Wonder Woman. She was one of the first and undoubtedly most popular superheroes. The creator, Charles Moulton, signed the script as screenwriter. But what does this have to do with Hippocrates’ theory?

A psychologist interested in “normal people”

Easy: Charles Moulton was nothing more than the pen named William Moulton Marston, former psychology professor at American University and the inventor of the polygraph, hid behind.

The DISC tool was the first personality tool of the modern era based on the four cardinal points of human behavior, like Hippocrates’ theory. These points represent four extreme personalities. The different possible combinations of these personality traits define the DISC profiles of each person.

Each letter in the DISC tool stands for a different personality.

The name of the tool comes from the abbreviations of these personalities: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).

Professor Marston wasn’t too interested in studying mental illnesses. Actually, he liked studying “normal” people. He first detailed his DISC tool in his book Emotions of Normal People.

What does the DISC acronym mean?

But what’s the real meaning of the DISC acronym? The DISC model takes into account two axes: how one perceives oneself with regard to one’s social environment and whether one perceives that environment as favorable or antagonistic.

Here are the four personality traits of the DISC tool:

  • Dominance: You consider yourself superior to your environment, which you consider antagonistic. Therefore, you focus on exercising your power. This personality trait predominates in tenacious and self-confident people who focus on achieving their goals.
  • Influence: You also consider yourself superior to your environment. However, you consider your environment favorable. This personality trait predominates in optimistic, extroverted, and enthusiastic people.
  • Steadiness: You consider yourself inferior to an antagonistic environment. You’re committed to “doing the right thing”. This personality trait predominates in reserved, prudent, and analytical people.
  • Conscientiousness: You consider yourself inferior to your environment, but you accept this inferiority. In other words, you don’t consider your environment antagonistic. This personality trait predominates in serene, humble, and patient people.

Current uses of the DISC tool

Given that Marston never patented nor registered the trademark of his tool, there are several tests based on it. In fact, many of them are commercial in nature and used by HR departments. This is because knowing an applicant’s behavioral profile is essential for those responsible for hiring new employees.

The DISC tool may be used by employers during the hiring process.

In addition, counselors have also widely used the DISC tool in educational settings to understand students’ reactions and motivations. Also, thanks to the application of the DISC tool, it’s possible to deepen our knowledge of our own behavior.