What is a DiSC Assessment?

What is the DISC Personality Testing and What is it Used For?

The DiSC Personality Test is a popular personality profile test that measures four main traits: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C).

It is based on the DISC Personality Model, proposed in 1928 by psychologist William Moulton Marston, who also happened to build an early version of the lie detector as well as create the comic book hero Wonder Woman (wikipedia).

Wonder Woman - Creation of William Marston
The creator of the DISC Personality Model was also the creator of the comic superhero Wonder Woman in 1941.


Marston was unique in his time for focusing on the personalities of ordinary people who were not struggling with mental illness. His book, Emotions of Normal People, described how people perceive and interact with their environments.

What does DiSC Stand For?

DiSC is an acronym that represents the four main personality types in a DiSC Assessment Test: (D) Dominant , (i) Influence , (S) Steadiness, and (C) Conscientious.

The DiSC Personality Model

The DISC personality model is a circular grid that is divided into 4 quadrants. Each one of the quadrants represents a primary trait as mentioned before; Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C).

Marston called the emotions Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance in his book, and defined them based on behavior he observed.

DISC Quadrants

The DISC profile quadrants (commonly referred to as the DISC circle) are typically represented as in the image below. Reading left to right, you can see it clearly spells out DiSC.

DISC Quadrants - Assessment Circular Grid of Emotions
Above is the DiSC Assessment circular grid of primary emotions, divided into quadrants. This is based on Marston’s work.


The 12 DISC Types

Four Main Personality Types for DISC

There are four main DiSC profile assessment types. They are the following:

  1. Dominant (or D Profile Style)
    The Dominant personality profile combines both task orientation and directness. People with a Dominant profile are focused and determined. They are oriented towards the results rather than the process.
  2. Influence (or I Profile Style)
    The Influence personality is the most outgoing person on the team, and the most social. They are the most enthusiastic and persuasive people on the team and are oriented towards making connections with others.
  3. Steadiness (or S Profile Style)
    The Steadiness personality profile type are the most sympathetic and even-tempered. They combine patience and calm with a more moderate pace.
  4. Conscientious (or C Profile Style)
    The Conscientious personality combines an analytical orientation with attention to detail. They combine the moderate pace with a systematic approach to tasks.



Dominant (or D Profile Style)

Task oriented, direct, focused, determined. Oriented towards results rather than the process.

Influence (or I Profile Style)

Outgoing and social. Enthusiastic and persuasive. Love making connections with others. 

Steadiness (or S Profile Style)

Sympathetic and even-tempered. Patient, calm, moderate.

Conscientious (or C Profile Style)​

Analytical with attention to detail. Combine a moderate pace with a systematic approach.

Personality Types

Some personality styles are combination styles and fall within two different categories. They have also been profiled in the Everything DiSC group of tests.


There are two subcategories of Dominance/Influence.

  • The Di Style
    The Di Style (more Dominant) can convince others by the sheer force of their personality. This DiSC profile is bold and daring.
  • The iD Style
    The iD Style (more Influence) inspires others more with their enthusiasm.


Likewise, there are two subcategories of Influence/Steadiness.

  • The iS Style
    The iS style (more Influence) is upbeat, lighthearted, and cheerful.
  • The Si Style
    The Si style (more Steadiness) is supportive and amiable.


The hybrid styles combining Steadiness and Conscientiousness are the most deliberate in decision-making, cautious and passive.

  • The SC Style
    The SC style (more Steadiness) prefer to work behind the scenes, where attention to detail will not attract notice.
  • The CS Style
    The CS style (more Conscientious) are more self-controlled and submissive.


Subcategories that combine Conscientiousness with Dominance include CD (more Conscientious) and DC (more Dominant).

  • The CD Style
    People with the CD profile tend to be straightforward.
  • The DC Style
    People with the DC profile are strong-willed.

High Dimensions

The DiSC Assessment test types were developed using the reactions and preferences of normal people, so no style is better or worse than any other. All people can develop leadership skills, work together in teams, and accomplish the tasks before them. People with different personality types may go about those tasks in different ways.

When people take the DiSC tests, they receive a set of scores on eight different mathematical scales. The highest scores correspond to the personality type that has the best fit. Often, there can be only one type that emerges, but sometimes more than one will have high dimensions.

  • High D
    While people can be described as having a High D Style, it doesn’t mean that they have only Dominant traits. They have elements of the other profiles as well, so that a person may feel more comfortable with the higher energy and skepticism of Dominance but be able to express other traits also. People with a High D profile place a great deal of emphasis on achievement, success, and competition. They are motivated by control.
  • High I
    People with a High I style excel in communicating with others. They are outgoing, social, enthusiastic, and confident. They value positive relationships with those around them.
  • High S
    People with a High S style are patient, calm, and value positive interactions with others. They maintain supportive relationships with people and are intensely loyal.
  • High C
    People with a High C Style are analytical and controlled. They are conscientious, attentive to detail, and value rules and structures.

What does the DiSC Assessment Measure?

The DiSC assessment measures general behavioral style and preferences, such as the pace of the environment, or reactions to the rules that others set.

The DiSC test does not measure the entirety of a person’s personality, such as their cognitive style, feelings, or values. And nor does it measure intelligence, aptitude, or mental illness.

Since the DiSC theory is based upon the responses of normal people, it does not measure or diagnose mental illness.

Accuracy, Validity, and Reliability

Assessments based on the DISC theory have been around for about 40 years.

The presentation has changed and modified with time as researchers have developed more effective ways to help people find their best mix of behavioral styles.

The latest forms of the test allow for adaptive assessment, which is a dynamic form of computerized assessment that changes with the responses of the person taking the assessment. That makes the profile that much more accurate.

In order to evaluate any type of assessment, researchers ask about its reliability and validity. Those two concepts are related, but they are not the same.

Reliability of the DiSC Assessment

Reliability refers to how consistent measurements are. Think of measuring length with a ruler. If that ruler is made of a hard substance, measurements may be the same each time the same distance is measured. Suppose that ruler was made of modeling clay that stretches and bends. The measurements of that same distance might not be even close, and they might even vary randomly, depending on the way the bendy-ruler were shaped.

In much the same way, researchers ask about measurements in psychological assessments. There are a variety of statistical techniques that “crunch the numbers” and measure how reliable a test is. One of those measurements is called test-retest reliability, which means that a group of people take the same assessment more than once, in order to see how closely the patterns at one time correlate with those when the assessment is taken a second time. (Often test-retest reliability is measured 2 weeks or so apart, to counter what people will remember answering.)

The second part of reliability deals with how consistently things that measure similar traits measure them. In an assessment like Everything DiSC, where different scales are being measured, it’s a matter of seeing if those different scales are internally consistent. Tests based on the DISC theory, from the earliest Activity Vector Analysis to the Everything DiSC series, have been studied and measured for both types of reliability, to show that there are different factors and behavioral styles that are being measured.

Validity of the DiSC Assessment

Validity has to do with how accurately an assessment measures the construct it is designed to measure.

There are many ways to define validity.

The DISC model itself proposed four different styles of behavior: Dominant, influence, Steadiness, and Consistency.

According to the model, styles which are closer together (such as Dominance and Influence) should be more closely correlated than those which are further apart (such as Dominance and Steadiness).

When real responses to questions are compared, correlations follow that pattern. (Detailed results can be found in the discussion of Everything DiSC research.)

Another way to measure validity is to compare the theoretical model with real scores on the Everything DiSC Assessment.

If the theoretical DiSC model for Everything DiSC is a circle with the eight measurement scales at the same distance from the center, the real-world measurements should approximate a circle when all of them are viewed at the same time. (This technique is called “multidimensional scaling” and involves many data points that can be mapped in a multi-dimensional sequence.)

Why is the “i” in DiSC Lower Case (i.e. not capitalized like the other letters)?

The “i” in DiSC is lower case because a printer accidentally left the letter I in lower-case. The publisher decided to copyright the mistake and reserve DiSC as their trademark.

Everything DiSC is a group of tests that help people function best within teams and in workplaces. A balanced team has individual members who have different personality types as predicted by the model. The theory is that people with different personalities can mesh together and capitalize on their strengths.

Deborah McClendon-Magnuson

I am a freelance writer with a BA and MS from Western Washington University in Psychology. My interests include developmental psychology; measurement, testing, and evaluation; adverse childhood experiences and resiliency. In addition, I have teaching experience from a birth-to-three early intervention program, through several elementary grades, to a teaching assistantship with college students in the educational psychology sequence. My current day job is in social services with the State of Washington.

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