How many D’s are there in the population?

Posted July 19th, 2011 by Mark Scullard and filed in Posts

We get a lot of questions about the distribution of DiSC styles in the population. “How many people have a primary D, I, S, or C style?” It’s an understandable question and a very simple one. Now, the answer to the question is also quite simple, but the explanation for that answer is very theoretical and, in my experience, almost always unsatisfying. One would think that we could estimate the number of D’s in the population the way we could estimate the number of males in the population. Unfortunately, we can’t.

So let’s start with that simple answer.

The percentages of each of the DiSC styles in the population (as we measure them) are equal. That’s right…25% D, 25% i, 25% S, and 25% C. In fact, they are designed to be equal. This is the way the current assessment works and this is the way that the original 24 box assessment worked.

Understandably, that answer doesn’t sit well with some people. “How could all of the DiSC styles be exactly the same?!? Certainly there must be more of one style than another! There aren’t exactly the same number of men and women in the population.” Here’s the problem: when we talk about categorizing something like gender, there are objective, outside criteria that can be used to judge if someone is a man or a woman. At this point in life, you should probably know where you fall on this one. With the DiSC styles, we have no such luck. There are no objective, outside criteria that we can use to determine if someone is a primary D. There’s no saliva test. There’s no my-way-or-the-highway chromosome. We do not, therefore, have a good option to ‘criterion-reference’ our assessment of DiSC. We instead use a ‘norm-reference’. In essence, this means that the meaning of your D score (i.e., is it high, medium, or low?) is determined relative to how other people scored. If you scored about the same as most other people, your D score is going to be interpreted as mid-range. If you scored much higher than most others, it will be interpreted as high.

The key word here is relative. A person is only D relative to the people around her. A person is only C relative to the people around her. For example, imagine that we a have a plane full of S style folks and the plane crashes on a remote island. We, of course, would have an island full of very, very polite people. But imagine that isolated community of people 10 years later, once they got to know each other really well. Some of those people would now probably be considered D’s – because they are more dominant relative to everyone else. If DiSC is going to be useful, it must help us understand our individual differences, not what everyone has in common.

But let’s get back to our conversation about population distributions. Again, we have no objective criterion for determining how many D’s, for example, are in the population. And since DiSC classification is relative, the determination of the proper distribution of styles is somewhat arbitrary. The decision was made from that original PPS DiSC assessment to assume that the distribution was equal among the four styles (because, again, no better assumption was, or is, available). The reasoning behind that decision is as true today as it was then, and, consequently, we have our simple answer: The percentages of each of the DiSC styles in the population (as we measure them) is equal.

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