To the ancient Greeks, the personality was an integral part of a person's general health.
They believed that the body contained four fundamental liquids (called humours) based on
the four elements of fire, air, water and earth. When one of these humours became dominant
over the others, it was thought to effect the person's mood and personality.
The four humours, blood, yellow bile, phlegm and black bile, were each believed to be
responsible for a different type of personality. An excess of blood made a person
sanguine, yellow bile resulted in a choleric personality, phlegm, naturally, produced a
phlegmatic outlook, and black bile was associated with melancholia.
These theories, first set down in a systematic way by Hippocrates, remained in use
until the middle ages. We now know, of course, that they have no basis in medical fact,
but what the Greeks had almost incidentally achieved was the first systematic method of
describing personality types. So successful was their approach that, even today, the words
'humour' (meaning 'mood'), 'sanguine', 'phlegmatic' and 'melancholic' are still in common
Thankfully, modern personality profiling does not rely on measuring the amount of
yellow bile in a person to determine their personality style, but the ideas behind it can,
indirectly, be traced back to Hippocrates' theories.
There are many modern theories of the personality based on the idea of four personality
factors. Perhaps the most influential of these is to be found in the work of the Swiss
psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung. He defined personalities as belonging to one of four
different types; Sensing, Intuitive, Feeling and Thinking.
The definitions of these types are rooted in Jung's lifelong work on the unconscious
mind, and need not concern us here. They are important because they represent one of the
first serious attempts to map the human personality by a modern psychologist. Personality
tests based on Jung's work are still available today.
It was Jung's opinion that people instinctively understand the personality in terms of
a set of four elements (his four types being one example of such a set, and the four
humours of the Greeks being another). These groups of four (technically called tetralogies)
underlie a very large number of personality assessment techniques.
|The Emotions of Normal People
early 1920's, an American psychologist named William Moulton Marston developed a theory to
explain people's emotional responses. Until that time, work of this kind had been mainly
confined to the mentally ill or criminally insane, and Marston wanted to extend these
ideas to cover the personalities of ordinary individuals.
In order to test his theories, Marston needed some way of measuring the personalities
he was trying to describe. His solution was to develop his own personality test to measure
four important personality factors. The factors he chose were Dominance, Influence,
Steadiness and Compliance, from which the DISC theory takes its name.
In 1926, Marston published his findings in a book entitled The Emotions of Normal
People, which included a brief description of the personality test he had developed.
From these humble beginnings, the DISC test has grown to become probably the most widely
used personality assessment tool in the world.