With pre-order sales for the latest book topping the charts in a matter of hours, a new theme park opening this month in Hollywood, and a new movie coming out in November, it is clear that Harry Potter fandom isn’t going anywhere. The series follows the classic trajectory of a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, and has a legion of followers of all ages and from all backgrounds. It also has about 450 million copies in circulation.
True, the series falls under the genre of fantasy, but its popularity may be due to author J.K. Rowling’s ability to create such realistic and relatable characters in spite of their fantastical surroundings.
The characters are so engaging because they remind us of ourselves or someone we know. We’ve all had that boss or teacher who rightfully incurred our distaste like Dolores Umbridge; or a friend who could be a little bit of a know-it-all like Hermione Granger. Perhaps we saw a part of ourselves in the pleasant oddball Luna Lovegood, or cheered Neville Longbottom on as though his struggle to overcome teenage awkwardness was symbolic of our own. We fell in love with these characters because they were familiar, and they were familiar because they are congruent with common DISC personality styles. We found it equally easy to identify with the houses of Hogwarts for similar reasons.
The four houses can serve as archetypes for different categories of personality, and DISC theory can be used to further assess these differences. DISC breaks down personality into four main categories: Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Conscientious. Philosophers since the time of Hippocrates have created four categories to describe personality. From Empodocles descriptions of the four elements in relation to human behavior, to Carl Jung’s thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuiting psychological types, personalities have frequently been sorted into four primary traits. Humans are understood to be a combination of these four traits, with individuals showing a predilection for specific traits over others. The sorting hat, in its wisdom, understands this principle, and sorts incoming students into their four respective houses. Each of the houses has distinct characteristics, and these characteristics share a surprising number of qualities with the different DISC styles.
Dominant - Slytherin:
“Or perhaps in Slytherin you will make your real friends, those cunning folk use any means to achieve their end.”
-from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
A Slytherin will achieve their goals through any means necessary. This is quintessentially D. The D style is decisive, active, and results-driven. They tend to make decisions based on a whim. To them, it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. They would rather lead than follow, and they are very self-confident. Highly competitive, the D style Slytherins are active and task-oriented. These people are risk-takers and problem solvers. D personalities like Slytherins don’t care if they are liked, they care if they are in control.
This makes it sound as if it is all bad, and though the Slytherin house did produce the most dark wizards of any house, they are not by nature evil. Neither is the D style personality. Like any of the styles, a behavioral trait that was once an asset can turn into a liability when overused. Some of the most well known Slytherins fall into that category. But there are positive sides to this, as well.
The Slytherins, like the high D style personalities, thrive on opposition and excel at seeing the whole picture. The Slytherins and Ds of this world seek authority because they desire to control the outcomes of projects and activities and move them toward desired results. They are big on cost/benefit analyses and seek recognition and respect. As the sorting hat decreed, “Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, there’s no doubt about that.” When a D (or Slytherin) is on your team they will get results, and they won’t be afraid to pursue changes. They seek to be powerful and respected. They have the potential to achieve great things, as Salazar Slytherin understood. That doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?
Influential - Gryffindor:
“You might belong in Gryffindor, where dwell the brave at heart. Their daring , nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindors apart.”
- from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
If you were a Gryffindor, you might find your fellow housemates still in the common room at midnight, frantically trying to finish a homework assignment at the last minute. Or you might hear them sassing back at Professor Snape because they have a quidditch match tomorrow that will preclude them from writing a ten page essay on Werewolves. This is because Gryffindors, like most I style personalities, have a motto: “If it isn’t fun, why do it?”
Inspiring, talkative, persuasive, interesting, and people-oriented, Gryffindor’s share a lot in common with the I style personality. They love being in the limelight. Nothing makes a Gryffindor happier than when their bold-colored banners are flying in the Great Hall because they just won the House Cup. The I style individual can also be a very quick-thinker. Harry’s ability to get out of a dangerous situation is a great example of this trait in action. Optimistic, brave, and motivational, it is not hard to imagine that “the Chosen One” came from the ranks of this house. Chivalry also numbers amongst the traits of this house/personality style.
Gryffindors got along well with all of the other houses, aside from Slytherin. They stood up for the rights of their fellow students during the tyrannical reign of the rule-abiding Umbridge and the sadistic Carrow siblings. Gryffindors/Is are daredevils, doing anything for a good time and willing to engage in risky behavior in order to reap the rewards. They are more likely to foresee potentially positive outcomes for a situation than dwell on potential dangers. It isn’t all good news, however- the line between bravery and stupidity is awfully thin.
Steady - Hufflepuff:
“You might belong in Hufflepuff, where they are just and loyal, those patient Hufflepuffs are true and unafraid of toil.”
- from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone
The Hufflepuff, like the S style, is very people-oriented. This is the house that produced the fewest number of Dark Wizards over the years. They are loyal, true friends, and steadfast. These people are reliable, slow and steady, and very hard workers. They desire to have security, stability, and a team-oriented atmosphere.
Though many muggles have an identity crisis after being placed in this house, they show great Hufflepuff pride once they have accepted their destiny. These folks may have Hufflepuff solidarity, but they are not boastful or competitive. Sure, they don’t tend to win the Quidditch Cup, but they’re just happy that everyone had a good time playing and no one got hurt. The Hufflepuffs/Ss of the world don’t like change, and this may explain why their common room has had the same rhythmic password for generations.
You won’t find a Hufflepuff talking back to their teacher, they understand the need for authority and are fine with other people having it. Having someone else in power means that they won’t have to make decisions or tell someone what to do. Having someone else make the difficult decisions means that no one will get angry at them for making an unpopular choice. They savor stability and security. This is not to say that they are pushovers. Far from it. The Hufflepuffs, like their mascot the Badger, will defend their family and friends if push comes to shove. But don’t expect the Hufflepuffs/Ss of the world to adapt quickly to change. If things are going fine as they are, why would you want to mix it up? They are not boring, they just like things the way they are, which is part of what makes them so loyal. If you are lucky enough to get the Hufflepuff’s on your side, you’ll indeed go far.
Conscientious - Ravenclaw:
“Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, if you’ve a ready mind, Where those of wit and learning, will always find their kind.”
- from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The Ravenclaw house shares numerous characteristics with the C style personality. These people are task-oriented, and for the Ravenclaws this means working very hard to achieve good grades. The C style Ravenclaws are analytical, systematic, and calculating. They excel at puzzles and at improving upon existing systems. Open-minded to new possibilities, Ravenclaws/Cs are excellent problem-solvers because they pay attention to details and see the things that no one else sees. (Think Luna Lovegood when she realized that Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem may have been seen by a ghost rather than a living person.) Like the D style Slytherins, Ravenclaws aren’t concerned with popularity. A Ravenclaw is more concerned with being correct and well- informed. (You can see why the sorting hat had such a hard time placing Hermione, as she is more of a Gryffinclaw.) This house/style takes great pride in being accurate and correct and fears criticism. Because these people are task-oriented rather than people-oriented, they may occasionally be seen as eccentric, but Ravenclaws are ok with that. Just as long as you don’t see them as wrong.
All four houses have their benefits and detriments, just like the four DISC styles. It’s easy to see how J.K Rowling’s understanding of the nature of personality has allowed her to create realistic and relatable characters.