The NPA personality test
© A.M. Benis, Sc.D., M.D.
To go directly to the online test,
click on the link below
Q. What is the "NPA theory" of personality?
A. The theory was developed by the author on the basis of concepts initially described by psychiatrist Karen Horney. We identify three major behavioral traits underlying personality: sanguinity (N), perfectionism (P) and aggression (A). We posit that each trait is based on the expression of genes that follow the usual rules of Mendelian genetics.
We use the letter N for sanguinity because it has a close relationship with the classic concept of narcissism.
Q. How is the theory useful?
A. It has the power to explain aspects of personality that previously had seemed too complicated to understand. In particular, it provides anyone the ability to analyze problems of interpersonal relations on the basis of "personality types."
Q. Are these three character traits really important?
A. Yes. We propose that the two character traits: sanguinity (N) and aggression (A) are indispensable to human development. They are part and parcel of our central nervous system. Every individual must possess either trait A or trait N, or both.
Q. Could we start with the trait of aggression?
A. The trait of aggression is the one that is the most familiar to us. Individuals having the trait are continually competing with each other on a scale of dominance and submission. The trait corresponds to a striving for power over one's environment. The trait of aggression may reveal itself in the context of sadism or masochism. Its hallmark is the "flight or fight" response, or the aggressive-vindictive rage. During the expression of this rage blood drains from the skin, and the facial complexion will tend toward pallor in individuals of light skin color.
Q. What about the trait of sanguinity, or "narcissism"?
A. The trait of sanguinity, is not so well known. Actions associated with the trait include flaunting body posturing, expansive arm gestures, smiling, bowing, colorful self-adornment, and a natural attraction to the limelight of personal recognition. The trait corresponds to a striving for glory in one's environment. The trait of sanguinity may reveal itself in the context of conceit, exhibitionism, vanity and messianism. Hallmarks of the trait include blushing, flushing and the narcissistic rage. During the expression of this rage the facial complexion becomes flushed or florid.
Q. And perfectionism?
A. The trait of perfectionism is a mediator of the drives of aggression and narcissism, and it is not associated with a rage reaction. Acts associated with the trait are obsessiveness, compulsiveness, repetition, and the desire for neatness, order and symmetry. A clue to the nature of the trait lies in the compulsive, repetitive mannerisms of autistic children and some adult schizophrenic individuals.
Q. And combinations of just these three traits (N, P and A) give rise to distinct personality types?
A. Yes. We call them "character types," since there is much more to personality than just the three NPA traits.
We consider first:
Dominant Types ..... in which the traits A and/or N are fully expressed. We obtain:
N ..... Sanguine personality. "The non-aggressive, non-perfectionist." Narcissistic personality.
A ..... Aggressive personality. Non-sanguine, non-smiling, dynamic individual.
NP ..... Sanguine perfectionistic personality. Sanguine, highly organized, perfectionisitic, non-aggressive personality. "The quiet achiever."
NA ..... Sanguine aggressive personality. Non-perfectionistic, aggressive sociable personality. Narcissistic-aggressive personality. .
PA ..... Perfectionistic-aggressive personality. Non-sanguine, perfectionistic aggressive personality.
NPA ..... Sanguine perfectionistic-aggressive personality. Sanguine, dynamic perfectionistic-aggressive personality. Narcissistic-perfectionistic-aggressive personality.
Q. That completes the picture of NPA character types?
A. Not quite. There exist other major groupings, namely:
Passive (inhibited) Aggressive, or Submissive types ..... in which the trait A is not fully expressed since childhood.
Resigned types ..... in which the trait A is repressed after maturity.
Borderline types ..... in which neither trait A nor N is fully expressed in the individual. We posit that some of these withdrawn individuals would be prone to mental illness and would require hospitalization.
An example of a borderline type is the "N− P type", the Sanguine perfectionisitic Borderline personality: This is the borderline or "successful" autistic personality (in the context of infantile autism: Kanner or Asperger syndrome).
Space does not permit elaboration of these very important groupings.
Q. What is meant by "sanguine" and "non-sanguine"?
A. Sanguine character types have the N trait. They tend to have ruddy or florid facial complexions (in individuals of light skin color), and they tend to blush, flush and smile easily. Non-sanguine types (A and PA) do not have the N trait. They tend to have non-florid complexions and are relatively inhibited from blushing, flushing and social smiling.
Q. Are there any factors that complicate matters?
A. Yes. Although we have used the term "personality type", we should more appropriately say "character type." Indeed, we consider personality to be primarily the resultant of two main entities: character type (traits N, P and A) and temperament. Human temperament in the Pavlovian sense -- a measure of an individual's level of activity or excitability -- clearly also has a genetic basis. Although our analysis focuses mainly on the first entity, character type, we allow for many other "modifier genes" contributing to temperament, as well as to other facets of personality.
Environmental influences also contribute to personality; these effects may be considered to be overlaid on the NPA genetic structure.
Finally, there are many other secondary aspects that go into "personality", some of them depending on cognition (intelligence, thinking, learning and reasoning).
However, complex as personality can be, the clear understanding of one's behavior must first begin with the identification of one's NPA genetic character type.
Q. Don't the three traits of sanguinity (sometimes "narcissism"), perfectionism and aggression carry a negative connotation?
A. No. These are natural traits, and all humans have them. They are part and parcel of the human character structure, and one should take pride in them.
Q. If human personality rests on genetic factors, does this mean that there is a "biological determinism" to human behavior? Does this mean that our character traits are determined from the day that we are born, and there is nothing we can do to affect our behavior?
A. No. Although much of our personality is innately genetic, our cognitive potential (intelligence, reasoning, etc.) does give us a measure of "free will". Although we cannot alter our basic character traits -- just as we cannot change our gender -- we certainly can alter our behavior.
Q. Is there a relationship between NPA character type and disease?
A. We believe that the genes that determine NPA character type are also involved in the predisposition to many diseases, both physical and mental. This interaction may explain the basis of many of the so-called "psychosomatic diseases" that have been in the medical literature for many years. These diseases include ones like diabetes, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, peptic ulcer, coronary artery disease, spasmodic dysphonia, diseases of the skin and rheumatoid arthritis.
Specifically, we believe that the various NPA character types may be predisposed to certain physical and mental diseases. You can help us develop hypotheses (to be tested in controlled studies) by taking the online NPA test and noting any condition that you have via the dropdown list at the bottom of the test page.
If you have eczema and wish information on "breaking the itch-scratch cycle" by our method of behavior modification, check "eczema" on the dropdown list and include your email address. We'll send you the eBook version without charge.
Q. Is there a relationship between the NPA test and the results of other tests, such as the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs?
A. Since the NPA approach focuses on primary genetic traits, there is no simple correlation between our approach and the results of other tests.
Q. How can I take the on-line "personality test" by which one can determine one's NPA character type?
A. Clicking on the link at the head of this page will take you directly to the test. The results are displayed immediately in the form of numeric results and bar graphs. For further discussion of the interpretation of the test, click the Analysis link at the head of this page.
If you wish to have an in-depth graphical analysis of your test posted (anonymously) on our Message Board, please indicate so in the "Comment" section at the bottom of the test page.
Q. Can I use the test to gain insight into the personality of another person, for example a friend?
A. Yes. If you know someone very well, you can get an idea of their character type by taking the test "in their place," i.e., answering the questions like you think that he/she would answer them. If you do submit such a test, please indicate that you are doing so in the comment section of the test (for example: "surrogate test: ex-boyfriend").
Q. Can I use the test to compare my personality with that of another person?
A. Yes. If you and another person, say a mate or a friend, both submit tests, we can calculate how similar the answers are for the two tests.
The index that we use is called the correlation coefficient (CC). It compares, for all 50 questions of the test, how similar were the two sets of responses. If all the pairs of answers were identical, the CC would be 1.00. If the answers were completely opposite, the CC would be −1.00, i.e., negative.
The similarity according to CC would be as follows:
above 0.70 -- extremely similar answers
0.60 to 0.70 -- very similar
0.30 to 0.60 -- moderately similar
0 to 0.30 -- no correlation at all
−1.00 to 0 (negative) -- opposite answers, or antagonistically dissimilar.
Again, if you and another individual do submit tests at the same time, please indicate that you are doing so in the comment section of the tests (for example: "paired test: John of John/Helen"). We would post the results, with the CC, on our Message Board.
The NPA personality test is a work in progress, so the above CC comparison should be considered "for amusement purposes only". One should not make any personal decisions on the basis of the results.
Q. How can I obtain further information?
A. An easy way to become acquainted with the NPA model is through our description of caricatures of the various NPA types (see link at the head of the page).
Important note & disclaimer:
The material herein is presented for purposes of information only. The diagnosis and treatment of behavioral disorders should not be attempted without the personal involvement of a licensed health care professional.