Without categories, the world would be a bewildering jumble of unrecognizable objects. When we encounter something new—a chair, a tree, a dangerous situation—we know what it is because it looks like something we’ve seen before. As it is with chairs, so it is with people. We plot their extroversion, their compassion, their neuroticism in relation to others—a million tiny signals that coalesce into the thing we label personality. Today, personality tests have simplified, and monetized, this complex calculation. At interviews, assessment centers and team bonding events, testing is ubiquitous. Matchmakers and their online equivalents entice us with the promise that every question answered will bring us one step closer to unlocking our perfect partner. Some devotees even turn to personality tests when making important life decisions. “It was like I’d pulled up the blanket over the universe and looked at God, ” says Kaila White, an American This story is from Kinfolk Issue Twenty-Two Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Garden Issue 37 Ron Finley An exclusive excerpt from our forthcoming book, The Kinfolk Garden. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Rendered Impossible Those who can only dream of the great outdoors may as well have some fun while doing it. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Wild Thoughts On the nature of nature writing. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Jane Goodall From her perch in the tiny Tanzanian nature reserve of Gombe, primatologist Jane Goodall changed how we understand the nature of chimpanzees—and ourse Arts & Culture Issue 37 Home Grown In conversation with a plant stylist. Arts & Culture Issue 37 The Force of Nature What do we risk losing when “natural” becomes a synonym for “good”? Ana Kinsella investigates.