History of Four Quadrant Models for Describing the Way People Act

Athlete Assessments’ DISC Profiles are the only sport specific behavioral profiles of their kind available in the world today. This unique profiling system, for coaches, athletes and sports professionals, draw on a large body of research relating to personality and behavioral theory. As the name suggests, these assessments are based on the DISC model developed by American psychologist William Moulton Marston in the early 1920’s, but the history of four quadrant models for describing behavior begins a long time before then.

A Brief History of Behavioral Profiles

Historical and contemporary research reveals more than a dozen models and methods of measuring our behaviors and profiling personalities.  From the Greek philosophers to modern-day psychologists, one common thread of many of these models, is the grouping of behavior and personality into four basic categories.

In 444 B.C.E. Empedocles, a Greek Philosopher discussed the four ‘roots’ or elements, fire, earth, wind and water. Empedocles believed that these ‘roots’ could make all the structures in the world. Empedocles recognized that people seemed to act in four distinctly different ways, but instead of attributing these actions to internal factors, he believed it was external environmental factors of wind, earth, water and air, which affected the way people acted.





In 400 B.C.E., Greek physician Hippocrates put forth that the four quadrants (fire, water, earth and air) were reflected in the body. Hippocrates, also known as the Father of Medicine, developed a medical model based on these elements, attributing their qualities to four fluids or (humors) within the body, Phlegm, Blood, Black Bile, and Yellow Bile.

Phlegm & Water

Blood & Air

Black Bile & Earth

Yellow Bile & Fire

It was Hippocrates’ work, combined with the work of Galen another Greek philosopher, two hundred years later, which expanded the theory of humorism into one of personality. The four temperaments of Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholic are based on the balance of humors in the body. This demonstrated the shift in four quadrant models from believing the personality was affected by environmental factors to recognizing there were internal dynamics.


Yellow Bile

Determined, quick to act fiery, energetic, passionate



Warm hearted, outgoing, volatile, optimistic, cheerful.



Slow, patient, calm, quiet, shy, rational, consistent.


Black Bile

Serious, anxious, quiet, fearful, depressed, poetic, artistic, sad.

In 1921 that Carl Gustav Jung re-examined the four quadrants. Unlike the Greek Philosophers who believed it was internal fluids which affected us, Jung attributed the internal styles to the thought process. His four styles were Thinking, Feeling, Sensation, and Intuition, now used in the Myers Briggs Personality Test (MBTI).





A Brief History of Behavioral Profiles

In the early 1920’s, an American psychologist named William Moulton Marston developed a theory to explain people’s emotional responses. While based on these earlier four quadrant models and that of Carl Yung, Marston wanted to extend these ideas to cover the behavior of what we know as ‘normal’ individuals. In 1928, Marston published his findings in a book entitled The Emotions of Normal People, which included a description of the DISC model he had developed.

Read more about the History of the DISC model and its now modern application to elite sport.

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