DISC History - Where did DISC come from?

Many of us know a basic history of DISC, but did you know that the basic theory behind the four quadrants of DISC personality styles actually can be traced all the way back to 444 B.C.?

The history of DISC began with the elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water. The theory behind these four quadrants of personality style was originally written by Empodocles in 444 B.C. He recognized that people seemed to act in four distinctly different ways, but instead of attributing it to internal factors, like DISC personality styles, he believed it was external environmental factors that affected the way we would act. In fact, the concept of the elements determining your personality style is still in use by astrology disciplines today. By 400 B.C., the history of DISC moved forward, as these four quadrants had shifted from environmental factors to internal factors, when Hippocrates redefined the these quadrants as Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic and Melancholic. He called them the 4 Temperaments.

DISC Prehistory

DISC quad logo

Carl Jung & The Myers-Briggs Personality Test – From there, the history of DISC fast-forwards quite a bit. Though psychology itself had many advancements, it wasn't until 1921 that Carl Gustav Jung re-examined these four quadrants and types of behavior. Carl Jung realized that while personality styles are indeed internal, Jung attributed the difference in personality styles to the way we think and process information. His four styles were Thinking, Feeling, Sensation and Intuition, now often used in the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI). And thus, the history of DISC advanced forward yet again.

William Moulton Marston & The Birth of the DISC Personality Styles – Which brings us to William Moulton Marston. In 1928, he published the book "Emotions of Normal People," developing what we know and use today as the DISC Personality System, which was validated during his studies at Harvard University. He redefined these four quadrants of DISC and behavior as predictable traits that we act out in our everyday lives. He saw our DISC personality styles as being both internal and innate, but impacted largely by our external environment. William Moulton Marston defined the four quadrants of personality as Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance, which we still use in DISC Personality Tests today. The history of DISC doesn't come to its present state until 1940. In 1940, Walter Clark took the theory of William Moulton Marston and developed the first DISC personality profile. The same DISC personality profile that is still in use today!

Learn More about William Moulton Marston, and his additional accomplishments other than creating DISC.