The DISC Theory

Understanding and applying psychological principles to people's normal behavior to improve their lives.

método DISC de Marston

DISC Model Background

William Moulton Marston focused his psychological interest on “normal” or typical individuals. He was intrigued by the everyday challenges faced by ordinary people, rather than psychotic behavior or mental illness in general.

Marston aimed to develop a unit for measuring “mental energy,” essentially to “understand and describe normal human behavior” based on how each person distributes, directs, and externalizes this “mental energy.” The DISC model partly emerged from his research on measuring behavioral energy and consciousness. However, his primary goal in developing the DISC theory was to illustrate his views on human motivation.

In 1928, Marston published “Emotions of Normal People,” and although he had written about the DISC model four years earlier, it was in this book that he formally presented the DISC Theory. “Emotions of Normal People” is a seminal work in psychology, primarily known for introducing the DISC model, which forms the basis for understanding behavioral styles and personality types. The book contains several key theories

DISC Theory

Marston categorizes human behavior into four primary emotions and associated behavior styles: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). He suggests that these behaviors are expressions of emotions that people exhibit in response to their environment, particularly in situations of perceived favorable or unfavorable conditions.

  • Dominance (D)

    Individuals exhibiting dominance respond to challenges with assertiveness and control. They are goal-oriented, decisive, and enjoy overcoming obstacles. Dominance is expressed in situations where control and results are paramount.

  • Influence (I)

    This style is characterized by sociability, talkativeness, and persuasiveness. Influential individuals thrive in social situations and are effective in persuading or motivating others. Their behavior is most pronounced in interactive, people-oriented settings.

  • Steadiness (S)

    Individuals with a steadiness style value consistency and stability. They are reliable, supportive, and prefer predictable environments. They shine in roles that require patience and persistence.

  • Compliance (C)

    Compliance is marked by an adherence to rules, precision, and sensitivity to quality. These individuals are analytical and excel in structured, organized settings where details matter.

Two Key Behavioral Dimensions

Marston’s theory proposes two key behavioral dimensions:

  • Active-Passive Axis

    This spectrum ranges from assertive, dynamic behaviors (active) to more reserved and reflective behaviors (passive). Individuals may exhibit different levels of activity in response to various situations.

  • Favorable-Antagonistic Axis

    This dimension assesses an individual's perception of their environment, ranging from favorable (friendly, supportive) to antagonistic (challenging, adverse). This perception significantly influences their behavioral response.

The intersection of these axes creates a comprehensive map of human behavior, forming the basis of the DISC types.

Environmental and Perceptual Influence

In “Emotions of Normal People,” William Moulton Marston explores the profound impact of environmental and perceptual influences on human behavior, highlighting that individuals actively interpret their surroundings, shaping their responses and interactions.

Marston describes environmental perception as binary, where environments are perceived as either supportive or hostile. Supportive environments foster open, collaborative behaviors and encourage creativity and risk-taking, influenced by feelings of security and encouragement.

Conversely, hostile environments lead to defensive or aggressive behaviors, driven by a survival mindset. In such settings, individuals focus on self-protection, often resulting in competitive or confrontational actions.

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Integrative Psychology

Integrative Psychology: A Study of Unit Response is a book by William Moulton Marston, C. Daly King, and Elizabeth Holloway Marston, first published in 1931. The book is an attempt to organize the field of psychology for students. It makes a critical examination of various psychological and semi-psychological attempts to classify fundamental human activities and thereafter attempts to postulate elementary behavior units that may serve psychology, precisely as the atom and electron have served in chemistry.

Psychology should be based on the study of unit responses. Marston believed that the basic unit of behavior is the unit response, which is a reaction to a stimulus. He identified three types of unit responses:

  • Sensory responses: These are responses to internal or external stimuli that lead to sensations.
  • Perceptual responses: These are responses to sensations that lead to perceptions.
  • Motor responses: These are responses to perceptions that lead to actions.

Marston’s approach in “Integrative Psychology” is characterized by its focus on the integration of various psychological components, including emotions, behavior, and environmental factors. He delves into the complexities of human nature, exploring how these elements interplay and influence one another.

Marston's Legacy

Marston’s work was pioneering in that it moved away from pathologizing human behavior and instead focused on the range of normal human emotions and responses. His emphasis on the influence of the environment and perception on behavior laid the groundwork for modern personality assessments and was influential in the fields of psychology and business, especially in areas like personal development, team building, and leadership training.

You can download his books here

método DISC de Marston