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William Moulton Marston: Emotions of Normal People

The DISC model dates back to 1928. That was the year when William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) published his book “Emotions of Normal People”.

marstonThis was at a time when psychology was still a young science. Unlike many of his contemporaries, such as Freud and Jung et al, Marston was not interested in deviant behaviour or mental illness, but in how normal people behaved when they interacted with others and the world around them. Marston was an academically trained man who held a BA from Harvard University (1915), a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard Law School (1918) and a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University (1921). The title of his dissertation was “Systolic blood pressure, symptoms of Deception and constituent mental states”. In his thesis, he describes how blood pressure changes when a person is lying during interrogation. This discovery became the basis for his ambition to construct a lie detector.


Marston’s theories are described in two books, “Emotions of Normal People” (1928) and “Integrative Psychology, A Study of Unit Response” (1931). Besides books, he also produced numerous articles in academic journals. He was well read and versed in contemporary theories of how our nervous system works and one of his main interests was to identify basic emotions and their underlying neurological and physiological functions. Through his research Marston became convinced that women were more trustworthy and honest than men. He was also involved in the early women’s rights movement, including questions about birth control, suffrage and equality in terms of career opportunities. An expression of his commitment to the feminist movement appeared in the form of “comic books” with a female heroine, Wonder Woman, something of a forerunner to today’s Lara Croft.