Around the Island

Island bookshelf: The New Personality Self-Portrait 25


Lois B. Morris has had a rich and extensive career as a writer, beginning with travel guides and comprising numerous articles and books on mental health. She had a column called Mood News in Allure magazine for 25 years.

In 1991 she co-wrote a book called The Personality Self-Portrait with John M. Oldham, M.D. “It’s been in print continually since then,” Ms. Morris said,  “and published in several languages.”

She met her co-author on a plane returning from a psychiatry convention. They discussed how there were tests for personality disorders, but how it would be useful to be able to measure “personality order.” A test based on the book measures 14 traits, or personality styles. This year, the test, named The New Personality Self-Portrait 25 (NPSP25) was made available online (

“We had licensed it to a psychological test publisher,” she said, “but five years ago we took it back.” With no marketing, the test was taken by some 12,000 people, giving the authors a database of respondents. Now, when someone takes the online test, they can see how their results compare with the larger population.

By identifying one’s own set of strong or milder “styles,” such as Aggressive, Solitary, Conscientious and more, it’s possible to understand what circumstances would enable you to thrive. The test is frequently used in couples counseling, having both spouses take the test.

“It makes abundantly clear,” she said, “that there are clearly predictable problems that are style based. If you have too much or not enough of something to get along with other styles, if you can adjust, it makes life easier.” On the test website, there are studies of three couples and their styles.

The test is not meant to diagnose disorders. “People who have disorders are not aware they have them,” Ms. Morris said. “People who have normal styles are more adaptive, flexible.”

Ms. Morris first came to the Island in 1980 to run the 10K. In 1981 she rented “the red house by the ferry,” which continued to be rented by publishing and media people for years afterward. In 1984, she bought her own house here.

She met her husband, Bob Lipsyte, on the Island. He’s a former New York Times journalist who stays involved in Island issues and shares his views in “Codger,” a column in the Reporter.

They have published numerous articles together, including a series about the Island’s Perlman Music Program. They traveled to Shanghai when the Perlman violinists joined Chinese violinists at the Shanghai Conservatory. In the course of their visits to China, they acquired the nicknames LoLo and BoBo.

Ms. Morris became involved in civic affairs for the first time when she was asked to join the board of Shelter Island’s League of Women Voters, of which she is now president. “I love being involved in this community,” she said, “hosting the candidates’ debates, and working with the kids at the school.” The LWV handed out “I voted” stickers to voters at the polls for Tuesday’s election.

She said she had never gotten involved in the community when she lived in New York City, but really enjoys doing so here. “I like getting to know everyone in town,” she said, “and you really see the effects of what you do here.”