Big Five vs DISC

Personality Models have become a recent buzz on the internet as we become more curious about how our minds work.

From quick Buzzfeed quizzes to lengthy, paid assessments, we’ve quickly become enamored with understanding ourselves through any means possible. 

As access to personality tests becomes easier, how do we know which assessments are actually accurate and which are just gimmicks to attract you to a website?

Unfortunately, I’m going to go ahead and spoil the fun by telling you that your personality cannot be determined by which Friends character you relate to most. Personality is much more intricate and complicated than that. Because personality is made up of learned behaviors, inherited traits, and simple, everyday emotions,  it can be difficult to fully understand why someone thinks, acts, and communicates the way they do.

While some personality assessments fail to provide accurate personality overviews, there are a few that tend to be very useful in helping us understand ourselves and others. Big Five and DISC are both trait-based personality models and can help you use personality insights to make significant improvements in your day-to-day life.

Overview

Big Five

The Five Factor Model, which is more commonly known as the Big Five, is the personality most commonly used for psychology studies and is widely considered the most scientifically validated of the personality models.

Psychologists have identified 5 independent traits that do not correlate with each other across any population, each trait with its own causes and observable behaviors: 

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Each trait is represented by percentile, compared to the general population. For example, you may have higher Extraversion than 82% of the population, but higher Agreeableness than only 30% of the population. 

DISC

DISC is a “four-factor” personality model, meaning that it observes four primary behavioral patterns across the population. Each pattern has a set of traits that tend to be grouped together:

  • Dominance (D)
  • Influence (I) 
  • Steadiness (S)
  • Conscientiousness (C)

DISC was developed in the early 1900s by psychologist William Marston, the same man who also happened to create Wonder Woman and the polygraph. It resembles other four-factor models that have been around for more than 2,000 years since Hippocrates described the “four temperaments”.

Strengths and Weaknesses

As humans, we are constantly growing, changing, and evolving; while this dynamic aspect of humanity is fascinating and necessary for self-improvement, it makes it nearly impossible for a modern personality assessment to be perfect. While models like Big Five and DISC offer several benefits, there are a few ways in which they are often criticized.

Big Five

Strengths:

  1. Big Five has been studied by psychologists and therefore has the most scientific validity and reliability.
  2. The results are relatively easy to understand, since they focus solely on five specific traits.
  3. The measurements are very precise for the individual traits. 

Weaknesses:

  1. Because the results are so individual and unique, it can be tedious to draw general insights and advice from test results making the practical application of the knowledge very difficult.
  2. The trait Neuroticism is tied most closely to negative social outcomes so people are more likely to be upset with their results in regards to this trait. 

DISC

Strengths: 

  1. Though four-factor models of personality, like DISC, emerged out of clinical observation, they have also been validated by scientific research. In fact, there are positive correlations between the DISC and the Big Five model.
  2. It’s easy to learn since there are four overarching categories.
  3. DISC results are useful for both individual and relationship insights. In other words, results can offer more than just an overview of your personality.
  4. DISC tends to offer more general insights which makes the practical application of it much easier. 

Weaknesses: Although DISC is a useful tool for better understanding personality, there are a few areas in which it lacks:

  1. DISC hasn’t been studied as often as similar models, like the Big Five, and therefore has less controlled research to support it.
  2. The insights tend to focus on behavior, rather than deeper thought patterns. This makes it less applicable in more emotional situations, like counseling.

When should each be used?

Big Five

Because each trait is represented by a percentile, Big Five’s measurement tends to be extremely reliable, accurate, and useful for the study of individuals; however, it is not as useful for application in relationships, communication, and business. It is best used for individual personality assessments, population-level personality studies, and counseling or therapy. 

DISC

DISC tends to be a useful tool for the professional world. It is accurate and easy to understand, which has helped it become very popular among coaches, consultants, and trainers. It is most helpful in situations where utility, application, and interpersonal behavioral change are most important, like sales, marketing, leadership, and talent development. 

Personality as a Tool for Understanding

While personality assessments like Big Five and DISC are not perfect, there’s still a lot to be gained from the insights they provide. By understanding more about yourself and those around you, you can learn to be conscious of your own thought process and make strides in self-improvement, all while remaining more open-minded and empathetic to other perspectives.

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