The New Personality Self-Portrait25


The New Personality Self-Portrait25, or NPSP25 is the work of psychiatrist John M. Oldham, M.D., in longtime collaboration with mental health journalist and author Lois B. Morris, and more recently, psychologist Alok Madan, PhD.


The NPSP25 is an updated, internet-only version of a book first published in a 1990 by Oldham and Morris, called The Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Dowith the the second edition remaining in print since 1995.


Find more at the NPSP25 website.


Image credit: Fizkes/Shutterstock





Hello, and welcome to ResearchPod.


Today, we are discussing a modern, scientific classification and self-assessment system to determine a person’s unique personality style.


It is called The New Personality Self-Portrait25, or NPSP25. It’s the work of psychiatrist John M. Oldham, M.D., in longtime collaboration with mental health journalist and author Lois B. Morris, and more recently, psychologist Alok Madan, PhD.


One thing we know about personality is that everybody has one. And everybody has a different one.


Philosophers and healers have struggled through the ages to explain the confounding differences among people. Here is a question that a student of Aristotle posed in the third century B.C.:  ‘Why is it that while all Greece lies under the same sky and all Greeks are educated alike, nevertheless we are all different with respect to personality?’


Why is that – and why do we need to know?  Well, for one thing, we have to live and work together in order to survive. And for another, each of us has to fit into our own circumstances and relationships in order to thrive.


The ancient Greeks believed that the balance of four bodily humors – blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm – could account for all variations in health and behavior.  Correcting imbalances was key to a healthy body and mind.


The NPSP25 is a more powerful, internet-only version of  a test first published in a 1990 book   by Oldham and Morris, called The Personality Self-Portrait: Why You Think, Work, Love, and Act the Way You Do. The second edition, first published in 1995, is titled The New Personality Self-Portrait. This edition remains in print in several languages today, with excerpts, charts and graphs available through NPSP25 dot com.


Fundamentally the NPSP25 is a tool for picturing this ‘orderly arrangement’ Once you complete a lengthy questionnaire, your scores are plotted along fourteen normal, non-pathological personality ‘styles’. With noticeable peaks in one or more styles, dips in others, the distinctive shape of the profile is your own unique Personality Self-Portrait – we could describe this as your organising principle, what’s normal for you. This Self-Portrait, and an extensive Interpretation Guide, can be printed or saved as a PDF, or alternatively you can access it on the site, where it is stored safely and privately.

You can compare your Self-Portrait with those of your partner, family, friends or your teammates. It’s also possible to use the Group Self-Portrait feature to superimpose all your charts on top of one another in separate colours, if everyone agrees to share their data and wants to see how you all compare.   You’ll have a vivid illustration of how your group functions. Couples will be able to see at a glance just how alike, or different, you are. This is a brand-new and important feature of the NPSP25. Some of these are illustrated on the NPSPS site, in Sample Profiles.


You can also see the Group Self-Portrait of the NPSP25 team by clicking on the ‘About us’ section on the site. The team had shared their individual results with each other many times over the years. But it was only when they began testing the feature on themselves that they understood why they worked so well as a team. The multicolour chart also provided clues to some of their recurring work issues. As they describe on the site, they were able to locate solutions using this tool. And, as an added bonus, the process was fun.


A Group Self-Portrait with her husband provided a big aha! moment for team member Lois Morris. After doing the Self-Portrait she realised, after years of marriage, that some of their issues resulted from areas in which they were alike rather than different. They are both highly Conscientious, a style characterised by the need to do things the right way. Except that they each have a different right way – even down to what they think is the right way to load the dishwasher.


It bears repeating that your Personality Self-Portrait reflects the nature of your normal, non-pathological personality – even though the fourteen personality styles are derived from the study of personality disorders. Diagnostic criteria for personality disorders are published in the American Psychiatric Association’s so-called bible of psychiatric diagnoses: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM.


(Alternate text to record: Diagnostic criteria for personality disorders are published in the American Psychiatric Association’s standard reference text of psychiatric diagnoses…)



The NPSP25 is the only normal personality self-assessment test that derives from the psychiatric  model of personality disorders.


Scientifically it makes sense.  Like many measures of health and ill health, such as blood pressure, you can think of personality on a spectrum ranging from life-enhancing to life-threatening. Obviously, you need blood pressure to stay alive, but too much or too little of this biological essential can become a problem. Likewise, each of us has a personality which is necessary to function in this world. But if certain personality traits or styles are too prominent (or too minimal), problems can ensue.


Consider Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder, for one.  It is characterised by traits such as rigid perfectionism, inability to express emotions, stubbornness, indecisiveness, and excessive devotion to work.


But turn the volume down and imagine what these traits might look like if they were no longer extreme. They might be described as Conscientious personality style. This is characterised by a clarity about doing the right thing the right way, a willingness to work hard and persevere, prudence, and attention to order and detail.  All these are features that can lead to success rather than failure.


If you are a strongly Conscientious person, you may sometimes seem like a workaholic, but you can call a halt at some point. Perhaps at the suggestion of someone you trust, you can chill for a while, then return to the task energised, and accept that the finished product, even if not perfect, is good enough.


This dimensional nature of normal, adaptive personality is the guiding principle of the NPSP25.  All fourteen styles are the common, non-pathological versions of the personality disorders described in recent editions of the diagnostic manual. You can see the continuum of styles and disorders by clicking the Personality Style/Disorder button on the homepage.


Be aware that the NPSP25 does NOT diagnose personality disorders. That requires a skilled, professional evaluation.  Personality disorders are hard to change, although they may be amenable to professional intervention.


It is common, and normal, to worry that personality tests will reveal hidden weaknesses or uncover something seriously awful. As mentioned, the NPSP25 reveals flexible, life-enhancing personality patterns in fourteen styles.  Everybody has strengths and vulnerabilities –  you’ll just see how yours line up.


To begin to understand your Personality Self-Portrait, look first at the prominent peak or peaks on the graph.  These are the styles that most recognisably steer your personality pattern. These may vary from one or two prominent styles to many. The Interpretation Guide presents all the style results in descending order of prominence in your personality, including strengths and vulnerabilities and advice for all.


Some people reveal a number of moderate to high peaks, others just a couple, but all the results provide information. Nobody is just one personality ‘style’, even the one that stands out the most. By consulting the Interpretation Guide in terms of all the styles measured, you may better appreciate your complexity and hidden strengths. For example, let’s say you score low on the Self-Confident style. This doesn’t mean than you are necessarily devoid of self-confidence.  Each style expresses a collection of traits.  A low score on the Self-Confident style may mean that you are less likely to put yourself forward in competitive situations or are reluctant to present yourself as better than anybody else. But if you have some strength in, say, Conscientious style, you get ahead through hard work, and your Devoted score might reveal what a good team player you are.


And being very high in Self-Confident style does not lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic personality disorder. You may well fall into the trap of being a bit too ‘me-me-me’ sometimes, but feedback from people who are close to you, or a life crisis, may be the jolt that gets you to step off your pedestal.


Still, if you worry that your Self-Portrait reveals too much or too little of some styles, the NPSP25 provides some outside perspective. In the Interpretation Guide, you will find Personality Percentile scores for each style in your Self-Portrait These indicate how you compare on each style to a sample of over 12,000 people worldwide. You’ll probably find you are in good company.


There’s so much you can learn about your personality style.  If anything about these findings troubles you, rest assured that the information within your complete profile analysis provides suggestions for change.


Can you change? Should you? The results of the NPSP25 will help you decide.


Most of us have a built-in flexibility factor that allows us eventually to deal with the hurdles that end up thrown in our path. As we proceed through life, we learn to adapt to change, which makes a variety of experiences, and expressions of ourselves, possible.  Indeed,  your personality will normally shift and change throughout your life. But even if you have become set in your ways, with sufficient incentive and effort, you can accelerate change.


Finally, to appreciate how NPSP25 can facilitate coping and change, go to Sample Profiles on the website homepage.  There you’ll find out how three couples and one office team used their individual and Group Self-Portraits to begin to solve their real-life issues.


The good news is that we are all interesting, and each of us is unique.  And if we learn things about ourselves that we’re not wild about, at least it’s a good starting place to improve yourself.


That’s all for this episode – Be sure to stay tuned to ResearchPod for more of the latest science. See you again soon.

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