Comparing the RMP and the DiSC
We sometimes are asked how the Reiss Motivation Profile® compares with
the DiSC. Based on a review of the publisher’s literature as
well as answers to specific questions we posed to the publisher, we can
offer these insights.
What does the test purport to measure?
The RMP is clear in that it is intended to measure an individual’s
motives – what Professor Steven Reiss called basic desires or
psychological needs. According to the theory of 16 basic
desires, our motives determine our values, influence the development of
our personality traits, and predict our behavior.
The DiSC measures patterns of behavior. It does not measure motivation.
How was the test developed?
The RMP was developed scientifically. Professor Reiss did not use an a priori approach
in developing the RMP. That is, he did not start with
preconceived ideas about the universal goals that motivate
everybody. Rather, he developed the RMP using an empirical
(scientific) approach. He devised a questionnaire with 328
items about what might motivate someone and then used factor analysis to
interpret the results. Three exploratory factor studies and
one confirmatory factor study, each with a different sample of subjects,
revealed that 128 items could be grouped into distinct
scales. In short, Professor Reiss allowed data to determine
The DiSC is built on William Marston’s belief that the behavioral
expression of emotions can be categorized into four primary
types. Walter V. Clarke developed a Self Discription assessment based on Marston’s model of behavior, and then John Geier created the DiSC using the Self Discription
as well as information gathered through clinical
interviews. In response to a direct question, the publisher
stated: “The DiSC does not have any history utilizing empirical
What results does the test produce?
The RMP measures a test taker’s intensity of motivation from weak to
strong for each of the 16 scales. While previous motivational
theorists spoke in general terms of motivation and personality,
Professor Reiss was the first to devise a conceptual platform that
connects motives to specific traits. According to Professor
Reiss, intensity of motivation is central to understanding the
development of personality traits. While everyone is
motivated by the same 16 goals, what makes us individuals is how much we
want of each of those goals. In short, the RMP provides an
assessment of personality traits along a continuum, which is the method
preferred by researchers.
The DiSC classifies a test taker into one of four distinct
types. The types are based on Marston’s notions about
behavioral differences among people and not on scientific data
suggesting that these four types can explain
individuality. Individual differences – whether we are
measuring personality traits such as sociability or physical traits such
as height – are better represented by a continuum than a category.
Has the test been independently validated?
Test authors and test publishers provide data to demonstrate the
reliability and validity of their assessments. This is true
for both the RMP and the DiSC. Only the RMP, however, has
been validated by independent researchers. Published studies
have been conducted by researchers in Canada (Professor Thomas Mengel of
the University of New Brunswick), Finland (Professor Päivi Mayor of
Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Marjaana Herlevi), Poland
(Professor Agata Chudzicka-Czupala of the SWPS University of Social
Sciences and Humanities, Agata Basek), and the United States (Professor
John Froiland of the University of Northern Colorado, Professor Kenneth
R. Olson of Fort Hays University).
In response to a direct question, the publisher of the DiSC stated:
“Although we do offer assessments to researchers who are interested in
independent DiSC research, we do not have any who have submitted their
validity/reliability results for publication in academic journals.”
Can the test be used globally?
The RMP is available in 19 languages. According to the publisher, the DiSC is available in 11 languages.
Who was the test developer?
The RMP was developed by Professor Steven Reiss for the purpose of
advancing knowledge about human nature, not for commercial
reasons. Professor Reiss was educated at Dartmouth College,
Yale University, and Harvard University. In addition to the
RMP, he developed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, a test that has been
translated into more than 20 languages and that is widely used in the
assessment of anxiety disorders. His work in the field of
developmental disabilities was recognized with five national awards, and
he gave invited talks in more than ten countries. Professor
Reiss’s obituary was published in the American Psychologist,
an honor that is accorded to very few psychologists – only those who
are considered to have made significant advances in the field.
William Marston, who was educated at Harvard University, wrote a popular
psychology book putting forth his ideas about categorizing people into
one of four types. Marston also was known as the inventor of
the female superhero, Wonder Woman. Walter V. Clarke was an
industrial psychologist who worked in Human Resources and who was
seeking to develop a tool for personnel selection. John Geier
majored in speech at Northwestern College and then earned a doctorate
in communication theory at the University of Minnesota. He
formed a company to market the Personal Profile System®, which became
To summarize, the RMP is the clear choice for clients who are seeking a
scientifically developed and independently validated measure of what
Maggi M. Reiss, President
IDS Publishing Corporation