When you type “DISC vs Myers-Briggs” into a Google search, it results in over 70,000 hits. Clearly, many people are interested in understanding the differences between the two most respected personality assessment tests on the market. So, what are the differences between the DISC Test and Myers-Briggs? Let’s start with a quick look at the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

A visual breakdown of Myers-Briggs (Photo Credit: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/12/know-your-myers-briggs-type-indicator-type/)

Modern MBTI tests are based on psychological theories published by Carl Jung in 1921. Jung believed that human behavior was dictated by four dominant impulses: intuition, feeling, thinking, and sensation.   The first MBTI test was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, and was initially used as a way to help women enter the workforce during World War II.  The style of MBTI test that is used today was first published in 1962.
In terms of the test-taking process, the Myers-Briggs test asks participants to answer a lengthy series of up to 90 questions. These questions are designed to indicate how the personality of the test taker falls into four binary categories:

  • Introversion or Extraversion (How you focus your attention.)
  • Sensing or Intuition (How you process information.)
  • Thinking or Feeling (How you make decisions.)
  • Judging or Perceiving (How you interact with the world.)

Based on an individual’s answers to the questions on the MBTI test, each of the four categories will reflect a clear preference on the behalf of the test taker. In other words, the test taker will prefer either introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. This results in the test taker being placed in one of sixteen clearly defined personality types. The personality types are labeled using a four letter code that corresponds with the test taker’s preference in each of the four binary categories. This means that a test taker’s personality will receive a label indicating personality type “ESFP,” “IIFJ,” “EITP,” etc.
The results are designed to help individuals understand themselves more completely. As an example, ISFP is a personality type called “the artist.” Once an individual knows that their personality naturally exhibits artistic impulses, it becomes easier to understand the types of careers to pursue. It also helps them avoid common problematic behaviors associated with the personality type, and to determine strategies for interacting with others more harmoniously.

From looking briefly at the basics of MBTI, it’s clear that the Myers-Briggs test shares quite a few key similarities with DISC.
While MBTI is based on the work of Carl Jung, DISC is based on the theories of William Mouton Marston. Both Jung and Marston specialized in similar fields (Jung was a psychiatrist, Marston a psychologist), and both wrote extensively about human behavior. Both Jung and Marston were contemporaries, and published the key texts that informed DISC and MBTI in the 1920’s.
Both DISC and MBTI are assessment tools, designed to provide insight into personality and behavior. Both are widely respected, and are used by individuals, organizations, institutions, and corporations throughout the world. There are, however, a few notable differences between DISC and MBTI:

  • The DISC test is shorter in length than MBTI (typically 20-30 questions for DISC, up to 90 for most MBTI tests)
  • MBTI sorts individuals into 16 personality types, while DISC focuses primarily on 4 dominant personality types (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliant)
  • MBTI assumes that personality is fixed and unlikely to change, while DISC is more open to the possibility that different situations and environments might bring out different personality traits in an individuals
  • MBTI is largely an indicator of an individual’s internal thinking, while DISC is designed to measure how personality translates to external behavior

Generally speaking, MBTI is a good assessment tool for the individual looking for self-knowledge. Results of a MBTI test tend to be very personal, and typically reveal a great deal about an individual’s core self. Although this may sound like an advantage over DISC, this can in fact be a weakness. Because MBTI is so deeply personal and is based on a large amount of revealing data from the extensive MBTI questionnaire, people who take the MBTI often feel uncomfortable sharing their results with others. This makes MBTI a difficult tool to use in a public environment such as a business, organization, or corporation.  Since personality testing is often used for team building exercises, corporate retreats, staff training, sales meetings, and other public forums, MBTI can be problematic. When a test taker knows in advance that his or her MBTI test results will be shared with others, this may also result in pressure that causes the test taker to fabricate answers in the hopes of making the best possible impression on others. Fabricating answers invalidates the test results, rendering the exercise useless.

Also, when MBTI is used for a public application (employee training, for example), MBTI test takers are often unable to retain useful information from their personality profile. With 16 different personality types and acronyms that are often confusing, MBTI language often fades from the memory of the casual user very quickly. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I took the Myers-Briggs test a few months ago. I think I was a EM…something? EMFJ? Or was it IMFJ?”

DISC, on the other hand, offers all of the advantages for MBTI, but with a more user-friendly interface. The simple acronym “DISC” is easy to remember, and therefore makes a much more lasting impression on users. It’s typical for individuals taking the DISC test to remember their results years after taking the initial assessment.

Also, because the DISC test is specific to whatever environment you have in mind when taking the test, results tend not to be as intimate or personal as MBTI. It’s easier for individuals taking the DISC test to share their results, confident that though the test results might reveal their work personality, their private self can remain protected.

Overall, DISC and MBTI are both widely used and respected methods of personality assessment. MBTI tends to work best for individuals interested in a thorough and deep look into their own psyche. Because of this, students of psychology and psychiatry often use MBTI as a theoretical exercise in university classes.

DISC produces results that are just as useful as MBTI, but uses a less time-consuming test, makes a more lasting impression than MBTI, and is a better choice for public settings where results will be shared with others. Additionally, DISC is easier to master than MBTI, and has more direct applications.

This is not meant to imply that no businesses use MBTI or that it can’t be used for applications other than self-assessment. Many have had success with MBTI. It’s a valuable tool with a history as long and respected as that of DISC. However, if you’re looking for a tool to use in the workplace, or seeking a personality assessment method that can be learned quickly and applied simply, DISC is the logical choice.


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