The Big Five are off the mark because they are each a mish-mash of genetic and environmentally mediated factors, whereas the NPA traits are each single genetic traits where each trait is the result of a single -- or at most a few -- distinct genes. Thus, although the Big Five include potentially more information, they lack the coherence or crispness of a trait model of personality.
An analogy would be the male-female dichotomy: the (very confused) Big Five researchers would try to classify males and females according to a complex formula that included body type, hair length, voice pitch, shopping habits, etc., etc. and thereby coming up with five categories of gender. The NPA approach states: "Whoa! There are only two basic types, and they are very crisply defined by XX and XY chromosomal genetics."
So, you are correct that the NPA model doesn't try to delineate subtypes among the various genetic NPA types. Such subtypes are determined by "other genes" and by environment (nurture, real life situation), providing the potential for endless complexity... just as there is endless complexity between males and females.
So, rather than to try to penetrate the Big Five mish-mash, we suggest that personality be studied in "tiers", where each tier has a genetic basis.
The first tier would be the male-female dichotomy.
The second tier would be the NPA traits.
The third tier would be the A− trait, or genes that mediate the expression of the A trait of aggression, producing the well-known "passive aggressive" or "submissive" types (repressed aggression).
A proposed fourth tier would be genes that determine temperament (the general activity or volatility of an individual).
Once these four tiers are elucidated and the interaction between them well-understood, we would then be in a good position to study higher orders of personality and human behavior, like territoriality, intelligence, sexuality, persistence, extroversion, empathy, and etc., etc.
The NPA model is based on hard science, namely Mendelian genetics. The model proposes how the traits can be passed from patents to child, and predicts how infertility could arise in certain combinations of NPA types. The Big Five model is wholly empirical.
Unfortunately, the Big Five have managed to intrude into the field of personality research as the Gospel Truth. The model defends the conventional wisdom* that no single gene influences personality more than just a few percent of the gross variation between individuals. From the NPA point of view, it doesn't mean that information from Big Five questionnaires cannot provide meaning information. It just means that the Big Five is not a basic theory of the genetic traits underlying personality and cannot hope to advance our understanding of human behavior, neither in the obvious facets of clearly delineated aggression and sanguinity (narcissism) nor in the fine details of why two closely related individuals in a personality category can be so different.
*Actually, the conventional wisdom is easily refuted: if many genes determined a personality type, then 1) the same personality type in parent and child would be a rare event. But from observation, we observe the contrary, for example the NP type in parent and child. 2) as a result of the Out of Africa migrations, different personality types would have been assorted to different geographical areas. But we find the contrary: the same limited number of NPA types are found in all areas... including the Australian Aborigines.
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