What do the letters in DISC mean? There are conflicting answers because the DISC model has no copyright and many assessments have been created based on it. They can all use different words for each letter. Today Wiley, the leading provider of assessments based on the DISC model, uses the following to describe each of the four letters in DiSC: Dominance (D), influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).
The DiSC Model of Behavior was first proposed by William Moulton Marston, a physiological psychologist in his 1928 book, Emotions of Normal People. The four behavioral traits he identified were labeled as Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C).
Later other researchers took the Marston DISC model and created psychometric instruments. Research around these assessments eventually lead to what we know now as DiSC® Classic. In DiSC Classic the letters refer to Dominance (D), influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). (The small i is simply a change made for branding purposes.)
Everything DiSC assessments use the following descriptors: Dominance (D), influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). However, Everything DiSC assessments allow for finer differentiation among styles than just four labels. So some styles will be D, i, S or C; but there are also styles such as Di or SC. When you complete an Everything DiSC questionnaire you are scored on eight scales, not four. You’ll also notice that you’re given at least three priorities. The example at right shows someone with five priorities.
There are several versions of assessments based on DISC, many of questionable reliability and validity. You might discover the letters of DISC standing for any of the following:
D – dominance, drive, direct
I – influence, influential
S- steadiness, stability
C – conscientious, compliant, careful, cautious, calculating
When you speak about DISC styles or types it is important to know exactly which assessment is being referenced. Someone who took a free DISC test might tell you they are a “high D” but if they took Everything DiSC they might be shown as a Di style with an extra priority for accuracy. I know that I’ve taken other DISC tests and usually show up as a C. But I’m much more comfortable with my Everything DiSC CD result.