Myers & Briggs vs. DISC Mental Models: A Detailed Comparison

This comparison is fairly complex, so to give you some options, I’ll present it in 3 sections:

  • Background
  • Executive Summary (the “headlines”)
  • Supporting Data (for the detail-oriented).

Feel free to skip to the part that you’re most interested in!

BACKGROUND

Below we’ll take a look at the correlation between the Myers & Briggs (M&B) personality “type” assessment and the DISC “style” assessment and what they yield in understanding “who we are” and predicting behavior. I’ll assume you know the basics of the M&B mental model and its inventory of 16 four-letter type codes.

In order to appreciate this comparison, some familiarity with the DISC mental model is useful but not necessary. I’ll also explain the combined DISC-M&B diagram above (DISC notation using colors and M&B in white) and the “Yellow Dot” as we go. The combination of the Dot and its location on this diagram are important indicators in DISC.

Why Compare the Myers & Briggs and DISC Models?

First, I want to show how these two popular models intersect, what can be learned from where they correlate, and where they diverge. And, when one or the other is more appropriate.

Second, I want to address the claim that DISC is considerably easier to learn and use than M&B. DISC does have the easy-to-understand and memorable framework diagram above that is very informative. But, DISC lacks the breadth of assessment of the more robust M&B model, which does require more knowledge to master, so it’s a somewhat unfair comparison.

(Note: In a recent Truity post, I suggested a Myers & Briggs framework diagram that will make M&B easier to teach, learn and apply. Check it out here.)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Summary and Conclusions on Comparing Myers & Briggs vs. DISC Models

On the breadth issue, M&B covers these four familiar cognitive function pairs:

  • E/I (Extravert vs Introvert)
  • S/N (Sensate/iNtuitive) • T/F (Thinker vs Feeler)
  • J/P (Judger vs Perceiver).

And as you’ll see, the DISC model only addresses the first and third pairings of E/I and T/F. Below, I’ll be more specific as to this intersection and its impact and what you can and can’t discover about yourself or others using DISC’s narrower scope.

To highlight the “narrower scope” below are some questions that DISC apparently cannot answer based on not accommodating the S/N and J/P function pairs and their empowering and predictive insights (aka “who we are”).

Sensate/iNtuitive Preferences – Here’s what DISC can't tell you. Is someone more likely to be …  

  1. Gathering data using their five senses or their intuition, or sixth “gut” sense?
  2. Detailed or big-picture oriented?
  3. Status quo (as is) or possibilities (to be) oriented?
  4. Observant or imaginative/creative?
  5. Here-and-now (in the moment) or future focused (in their head a lot)?
  6. Average-to-good or outstanding communicators?

Judger/Perceiver Preferences – Here’s what DISC can't tell you. Is someone more likely to be …

  1. Structured/organized or flexible/adaptable in their approach?
  2. More focused on results or the process?
  3. Looking for control or freedom?
  4. Decisive or exploratory when making decisions?
  5. Deliberate or spontaneous?
  6. Punctual or often late?
Conclusions: The Choice Between Them is Yours
  • DISC and M&B models are both viable strengths assessments
  • DISC has a narrower scope than M&B, and is more focused on behavior
  • M&B provides a broader scope that includes both behavior and “who we are”
  • DISC is easier to learn and use, based on its narrower scope and its use of numerous visual tools, including the diagram above
  • Let your need for breadth, depth and ease-of-use be your guide in choosing between them
  • Lowercase letters in M&B notation can be used to indicate you or others can easily show/display both a preference and its opposite (e.g., ENtJ, IsFP, …)
  • The author suggests M&B’s “deep dive” is best for yourself, your family and your close associates, beyond that, either DISC or M&B are proven assessments

I hope this clarifies the DISC-M&B connection! If you have the patience and the interest, below are the details of this analysis that led to these conclusions, along with some insightful quotes from Molly Owens of Truity.

SUPPORTING DATA

Discovering the Connection Between the Two Assessments My first “aha moment” as to the connection between DISC and M&B—and the M&B breadth advantage—came at a DISC training event I recently attended. I have deep experience with the M&B model but not as much with the DISC model. At that event, the facilitators broke the audience into four groups according to the “styles” (types) the participants had just discovered from their DISC test results:

  • Dominance (D)
  • Influence (I)
  • Stability (S)
  • Conscientiousness (C).

Having “fast typed” for decades, it’s common for me to look for M&B types and preferences in real time. So, as I wandered into the four separate groups of 15-20 members each and listened to their “authentic” interactions, a few things became clear to me.

At the highest and simplest levels, it was obvious and quickly observable that D’s and I’s were all Extraverts, and S’s and C’s were all Introverts. At the next level, all or most of the people in the Dominance (D) group were obviously Extraverted Thinkers (ET’s). All or most in the Influence (I) group were obviously Extraverted Feelers (EF’s). In the Stability (S) group … Introverted Feelers (IF’s). Lastly, in the Conscientiousness (C) group … Introverted Thinkers (IT’s). I show this simple, initial correlation in the diagram above.

When I shared my observations with Molly Owens at Truity, she provided these supporting insights,

“Our DISC assessment (and DISC assessments in general) are built around the intersection of two traits, something usually called ‘Surgency’ which is similar to, but not exactly Extraversion, and a trait usually called Agreeableness which is analogous to T/F in personality typing. So, there is definitely a lot of theoretical overlap between DISC styles and the E/I and T/F preferences.”

Molly also said, “The E/I and T/F preferences are the most relevant and biggest drivers to social behavior so it does make sense to pull out these two into a separate assessment like DISC looking at behavior and it's naturally going to cover less of what makes a person ‘who they are’ as with Myers & Briggs.”

Understanding the 12 DISC Style Profiles

Before we continue, there are two important concepts to understand. First, we get to 12 DISC styles because there are four “core” styles (D, I, S and C), each of which is shown as a quadrant in the diagram above, and each quadrant is further divided into three styles.

These three variations for each core style (e.g., Dominance includes D, DI and DC styles), the latter two have to do with a test result that places the Dot (above in diagram) near an adjacent style indicating some level of “overlap” and its effect on behavior. The equivalent in M&B terms is a preference and its opposite (e.g., a Thinker preference near in strength to its opposite Feeler preference) and the impact of that on behavior.

We all know someone who was difficult to type in M&B at first because they seemed to be able to behave like both a preference and its opposite, almost on demand, like an actor. DISC has this notation ability built-in via the Dot and 2-letter styles (e.g., DI and DC) to show how different styles and behavior can lean into and overlap with others. This will make more sense as we proceed.

People with these fluid-seeming preferences are often said to be in the “midpoint” range for those preferences in M&B. To use the example above, this is like being identified as a Thinker in M&B while scoring a 55%-45% result on the Thinker-Feeler 0-100 scale. These results near the midpoint (or the middle 20%) have shown that one can have a natural (authentic) preference but can easily tap into or show/display their opposite as needed and generally without stress (“overlap” in DISC terms).

This is a key nuance to understand in this DISC-M&B comparison, and I use lowercase letters to indicate this M&B midpoint situation (e.g. Ef and eF, below). Years ago, I started using lowercase letters to show that a preference was within the middle 20% range, and that a person in that range can usually and smoothly transition to an opposite and back again. BTW - I’m an iNTJ. Met a rare Esfp recently.

Where might a lowercase preference better reflect your M&B type preferences?

But, what about those outside the range? Well, I’m a Thinker way outside the middle 20% range and I’m challenged to show my Feeler traits, actually it can be uncomfortable, even stressful in any duration. And, it’s obvious. I can’t even “fake it” very well.

Putting It All Together

Now let’s dive into the detail of how the four DISC core styles and their base characteristics correlate with the two M&B preference pairs of E/I and T/F, taking into consideration the “strength” of the trait.

As mentioned above, notice in the DISC-M&B cross reference (summary and detail versions) below that the two-letter M&B equivalent includes capped and lowercase letters (e.g., D, DI, DC = ET, Et, eT). In this example, all three of the “D” styles are Extraverted Thinkers (ET’s), but some vary in preference strength. Keeping the DISC framework in mind, let’s start at “D” and continue clockwise around the circular diagram.

My iNTJ type equates to the CD style below. Find yourself in these tables and learn where you fit in this multi-model comparison. Surprises await!

Summary DISC-M&B Cross Reference

DISC (D, DI & DC) - DOMINANCE = M&B (ET, Et, eT) - EXTRAVERTED THINKER

DISC (I, ID & IS) - INFLUENCE = M&B (EF, Ef, eF) - EXTRAVERTED FEELER

DISC (S, SI & SC) - STABILITY = M&B (IF, iF, If) - INTROVERTED FEELER

DISC (C, CD & CS) - CONSCIENTIOUSNESS = M&B (IT, iT, It) - INTROVERTED THINKER

Below is a more detailed cross reference table of the 12 DISC styles and their corresponding four M&B preference combinations (ET, EF, IF and IT) and which way they may “lean” or not. DISC styles below include a list of common characteristics within that style. Both relate to when a person is being authentic, and not acting or “faking it”.

Detailed DISC-M&B Cross Reference Table

DISC (D, DI & DC) - DOMINANCE = M&B (ET, Et, eT) - EXTRAVERTED THINKER

DISC: D - Dominance (direct, results-oriented, firm, strong-willed, forceful, with a task focus)

M&B: ET - Extraverted Thinker (ExTx - meaning all 4 ENTP, ENTJ, ESTP and ESTJ types are included in the DISC “D” style)

DISC: DI - Same as “D” above but can also show/display (I) Influence traits (see below) (Note: See the yellow Dot on the diagram at the beginning of this article, its location would tell you this person is a “DI,” meaning they lean toward and also show “I” traits)

M&B: ET (Et) - Same as ET above but Thinker can also show/display Feeler traits at times

DISC: DC - Same as “D” above but can also show/display (C) Conscientious traits (see below)

M&B: ET (eT) - Same as ET above but Extravert can also show/display Introvert traits at times

DISC (I, ID & IS) – INFLUENCE = M&B (EF, Ef, eF) – EXTRAVERTED FEELER

DISC: I - Influence (outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, lively, with a people focus)

M&B: EF - Extraverted Feeler (ExFx - meaning all 4 ENFP, ENFJ, ESFP, and ESFJ types are included in the DISC “I” style)

DISC: ID - Same as “I” above but can also show/display (D) Dominance traits (see above)

M&B: EF (Ef) - Same as EF above but Feeler can also show/display Thinker traits at times

DISC: IS - Same as “I” above but can also show/display (S) Stability traits (see below)

M&B: EF (eF) - Same as EF above but Extravert can also show/display Introvert traits at times

DISC (S, SI & SC) – STABILITY = M&B (IF, iF, If) – INTROVERTED FEELER

DISC: S - Stability (even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble, and tactful, with a people focus)

M&B: IF - Introverted Feeler (IxFx - meaning all 4 INFP, INFJ, ISFP, and ISFJ types are included)

DISC: SI - Same as “S” above but can also show/display (I) Influence traits (see below)

M&B: IF (iF) - Same as IF above but Introvert can also show/display Extravert traits at times

DISC: SC - Same as “S” above but can also show/display (C) Conscientious traits (see below)

M&B: IF (If) - Same as IF above but Feeler can also show/display Thinker traits at times

DISC (C, CD & CS) – CONSCIENTIOUSNESS = M&B (IT, iT, It) – INTROVERTED THINKER

DISC: C - Conscientiousness (reserved, analytical, precise, private, systematic and task oriented, with a task focus)

M&B: IT - Introvert Thinker (IxTx - meaning all 4 INTP, INTJ, ISTP, and ISTJ types are included)

DISC: CD - Same as “C” above but can also show/display (D) Dominance traits (see above)

M&B: IT (iT)- Same as IT above but Introvert can also show/display Extravert traits at times

DISC: CS - Same as “C” above but can also show/display (S) Stability traits (see above)

M&B: IT (It) - Same as IT above but Thinker can also show/display Feeler traits at times

Steve Pfrenzinger

Steve is a performance coach that has made MBTI® Type core to his practice. A successful businessman and entrepreneur, he maintained a parallel coaching practice over the years with execs at some of the biggest named companies around; Sony, Disney, Broadcom, Western Digital, Gartner Group and so on. His specialties include: strengths assessments, personal branding surveys and managing the voice (in our head). An assertive INTJ, published author, speaker, motivator, Hall of Fame angel investor, cancer survivor, back-from-retirement KITA coach, with decades of experience to share on his unique approach to personality typing and much more. He lives in Orange County CA with his wife of many years. His website is www.StevePfrenzinger.com

Comments

Dean Wiener (not verified) says...

As always, reading and listening to Coach Steve is always an opportunity to learn something new.

Stephen Errico (not verified) says...

Very useful information.  Love to learn tips about practical application.  Example- How could I better communicate with an introvert/thinker.  

Ada Williams (not verified) says...

Strange... I'm an INFJ but CD in the DISK notation.  

DavidG (not verified) says...

I’m INFJ and DC. The DC type is sometimes called creative. Both INFJs and DCs are, as I understand it, somewhat unusual.

Steven Pfrenzinger (not verified) says...

See my reply to Ada.

Steven Pfrenzinger (not verified) says...

Ada and David,

Here are some ideas for you to reconcile your CD and DC DISC styles and how it might be out of step with your shared INFJ MBTI types. 

In my table, CD's are iT's and DC's are eT's, where the lowercase "i and e" indicate you are likely near the midpoint of the E/I range (in the 51-60% range).  I would ask both of you to retest on a site like Truity.com that provides a strength % to confirm that you are truly Introverts.  One of the biggest knocks on MBTI is the either-or nature of a preference, even if your test indicates you are very close to the opposite.  So, Step 1, are you two near the midpoint of the E/I scale, in the 51-60% range?

Next as Step 2, as Feelers in MBTI, both of you test as Task-oriented in DISC (CD and DC are both task/thinker oriented).  Again, I would retest to see if your Feeler preference is near the midpoint (51-60%) which could lead to this unusual situation where you both have DISC task/thinker styles but are Feelers in MBTI.  

In the notation I've used for many years, I would suspect that you both are iNfJ's (near the midpoint on both E/I and T/F scales).  This is a situation that doesn't show well on the DISC model diagram.  It would be good to discover.  

It will be fun to figure this out.  Steve Pfrenzinger, the author of this post.  

DavidG (not verified) says...

Steve,

Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. I am in fact close on both the E/I and T/F scales. My understanding is that a lot of INFJs are close on the T/F scale. I think, though, rather than trying to "reconcile" the results, I would suggest that MBTI and DISC are fundamentally measuring two different things. Let me use a close analogy. On the Big Five, I score high on extraversion. Yet I am an Introvert on MBTI. I've come to understand that these models define extraversion quite differently. I am affable and warm, apparently, and that translates to Extraversion on the Big Five scale. But I draw energy from the internal world and can be drained by too much group interaction, which translates to Introversion on MBTI. The two tests are measuring quite different things, though they use the common term Extraversion. Likewise, DISC is a work profile, while MBTI models how one prefers to gather (S/N) and process (T/F) information. With regard to work, I can be quite task-focused, but I prefer my decisions to be measured by values. To be task-focused in work is not the same as being a Thinker, though there may be some correlation. And to be people-focused in work is not the same as being a Feeler. It's important not to blur the meaning that these models give to the terms they use. Otherwise, we are likely to create confusion where none in fact exists.

Steven Pfrenzinger (not verified) says...

Hi David.  My validation testing on the comparisons between MBTI and DISC has been running in the 80+% to date (by comparing the results from both MBTI and DISC testing) so I feel confident that there is a correlation.  But, there’s room for those like yourself that don’t fit the model, especially with an iNfJ (lowercase “i and f” for midpoint notation).  Molly Owens at Truity, as an expert on such testing, made a great analogy.  

Our DISC assessment (and DISC assessments in general) are built around the intersection of two traits, something usually called ‘Surgency’ which is similar to, but not exactly Extraversion, and a trait usually called Agreeableness which is analogous to T/F in personality typing. So, there is definitely a lot of theoretical overlap between DISC styles and the E/I and T/F preferences.”

Molly also said, “The E/I and T/F preferences are the most relevant and biggest drivers to social behavior so it does make sense to pull out these two into a separate assessment like DISC looking at behavior and it's naturally going to cover less of what makes a person ‘who they are’ as with Myers & Briggs.

As for MBTI and Big Five, I’ve found some research showing this correlation and will post that next.

Steven Pfrenzinger (not verified) says...

Here’s a comparison of the MBTI paired preferences to the Big Five scales, notice there are no "either or" endpoints (e.g., E vs. I) on Big Five scales, just a percentage.  Your “affable and warm” traits would seem to fit well on the Agreeableness scale in Big Five and Feeler in MBTI.  I tried to point out that we are all actors to some degree (especially at work) and will show traits appropriate for the situation.  As an INTJ, I often have to show an extraverted side at work in meetings and in presentations. 

MBTI vs. Big Five

E/I   – Extraversion

S/N – Openness

T/F – Agreeableness

J/P  – Conscientiousness

??  -  Neuroticism

Many equate the Neuroticism scale in Big Five to Assertiveness, which I believe is not well measured in MBTI.

I found this MBTI-Big Five blending approach interesting at 16Personalities.com.  Per 16P, “With our model, we’ve combined the best of both worlds. We use the acronym format introduced by Myers-Briggs for its simplicity and convenience, with an extra letter to accommodate five rather than four scales. However, unlike Myers-Briggs or other theories based on the Jungian model, we have not incorporated Jungian concepts such as cognitive functions, or their prioritization. Jungian concepts are very difficult to measure and validate scientifically, so we’ve instead chosen to rework and rebalance the dimensions of personality called the Big Five personality traits, a model that dominates modern psychological and social research.

Our personality types are based on five independent spectrums, with all letters in the type code (e.g. INFJ-A) referring to one of the two sides of the corresponding spectrum.  This approach has allowed us to achieve high test accuracy while also retaining the ability to define and describe distinct personality types.”

I hope all this was useful for you.  I enjoyed the discussion.  Steve

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