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Hippocrates - Temperaments and DISC : An Evolution of Human Behaviour Assessment

Hippocrates (440 BCE) was a Greek physician who is widely regarded as the father of modern medicine. He was born on the island of Kos, Greece, and his works have had a profound influence on the development of Western medicine. He is credited with authoring or co-authoring a collection of medical works known as the Hippocratic Corpus, which contains over 70 texts on a wide range of medical topics. In medicine the famous Hippocratic Oath, is still widely used today, sets forth ethical principles for physicians and is considered one of the earliest codes of medical ethics.

Few are aware that Hippocrates also developed the Four Humors theory. He believed that each individual's health and personality were determined by the balance of the four humors (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile) in their body. According to this theory, an imbalance in these humors could cause illness, as well as determine one's personality traits and behavior patterns. Based on this theory, Hippocrates identified four distinct personality types, which were later referred to as the four temperaments: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic. Each temperament was associated with a dominant humor and a set of personality traits.

The sanguine temperament was associated with a dominance of blood and was characterised by traits such as optimism, social ease, and extroversion. The phlegmatic temperament was associated with a dominance of phlegm and was characterised by traits such as calmness, stability, and introversion. The choleric temperament was associated with a dominance of yellow bile and was characterized by traits such as ambition, drive, and assertiveness. The melancholic temperament was associated with a dominance of black bile and was characterized by traits such as introspection, sadness, and sensitivity.

Although the Four Humours theory has since been discredited in modern medicine, the idea of the four temperaments as a way of understanding human behaviour has been influential and continues to be used in various forms. The four temperaments of human behaviour, as seen historically, have evolved over time and are now often associated with the DISC approach to human behaviour enunciated by William Marston. Marston was an American psychologist and inventor who developed the DISC theory of human behaviour in the 1920s.

The DISC theory is based on the observation of human behaviour and how individuals respond to various situations and environments. According to Marston, there are four primary personality styles, each represented by a different letter in the acronym DISC: D (Dominance), I (Influence), S (Steadiness), and C (Conscientiousness). These are assessed based on the two cross indices. First is the degree of how extroverted or introverted one is. The second is related being people oriented or task oriented.

These four styles are similar to the four temperaments in that they each describe a distinct personality type and set of traits. For example, the D personality style is associated with assertiveness, leadership, and a drive for results, and is similar to the choleric temperament described by Hippocrates. The I personality style is associated with social ease, influence, and charisma, and is similar to the sanguine temperament. The S personality style is associated with stability, reliability, and a focus on relationships, and is similar to the phlegmatic temperament. The C personality style is associated with accuracy, attention to detail, and a focus on quality, and is similar to the melancholic temperament.

While the DISC approach and the four temperaments are not exactly the same, they share many similarities and both offer insights into human behaviour and personality types. Both frameworks aim to provide a greater understanding of individual differences and help individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the communication and interpersonal skills that are most effective for them.

Marston also identified that individuals exhibit a combination of the four primary styles, but with one or two styles being dominant. The secondary style often complements or balances the dominant style. This can lead to the formation of blends, creating a wide range of personality types that can be represented by a different combination of the four styles.

The idea of a blend of the four styles has expanded over time and now, the DISC theory recognises a wide range of personality types and behavioural styles, estimated to be around 41 different blends. This helps to explain why individuals can exhibit different behaviour patterns in different situations and environments, as well as why two individuals with the same primary style can behave very differently.

The recognition of the wide range of behavioural styles and blends helps to emphasise that human behavior is complex and dynamic, and that individuals are not limited to a single personality type. It also provides a framework for understanding and appreciating individual differences and the unique strengths and challenges that each person brings to the table.

Overall, the DISC approach to human behavior provides a rich and nuanced understanding of human behavior, recognizing that individuals are complex and that their behavior is a unique blend of the four primary styles. At #JOI we use the #Maxwell DISC Personality Indicator Report to help you unwrap details of your behavioural style. This helps you to communicate better, resolve conflicts and enhance your work effectiveness, altogether setting you to a voyage of significance.

Do reach out to chart an effective #PersonalNavigationPlan comprising of a #DISCovery Session, a 30 page Maxwell DISC Personality Indicator Report and a debrief cum coaching session. Book at

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