Twins have always held a certain fascination to human kind. Now they may hold the key to determining whether or not human beings have the ability to morph or effect their appearance biologically from within.
The study of facial differences between identical twins raised apart by adopted parents could hold the first clue. Identical twins are never exactly identical. There are minute differences that arise in their faces over time. For example, the average variation in distance between the two eyes could be + or – 1.3 millimeters between twins raised in the same family. The average variation of other facial features could be quantified as well. First, quantify those variations between twins raised in the same family. Then do the same for twins raised apart.
What if the twins raised apart have different average variations? Would it then be possible to compare the facial variations with the facial features of the parents who raised each twin? Could we find that humans morph slightly to look like the people who raised them? This would certainly be an evolutionary advantage. We tend to treat people who look like us, a little better.
In the future we could see parents adopt and adapt their kids by cranking up that inherent morphing ability somehow.
Follow me on Twitter
I was adopted so this hits close to home. People say pets and owners start to look like each other. Is that real?
I don’t think that’s real, maybe that’s just me! I think people morphing is a thing of its own, each other species is separately morphing, you know? But your comment did make me think about 101 Dalmations (cartoon version) when it shows Pongo looking out at all these dog owners walking around looking just like their dogs! Anyway, I love twin studies, I find them absolutely fascinating. There’s so much to learn from them.
I do not think there’s any proper basis for that statement, but things such as behavioral quirks and certain habits that may bear some semblance between an owner and his/her pet. I also think it depends on the animal and what kind of activities the owner actively participates in with their pets.
In the future if that does happen I think it would make people more inclined to adopt someone . When you adopt someone that is completely opposite then you, it can create some problems in the household. When you can morph another human to be more like you, the relationship can be peaceful. Very cool.
Twin study is fascinating in its own way but talk about pets and owners looking like each other? That is surprising. Though i have never been so observant, i doubt whether i can relate a pet to its owner so easily.
Only if you make it so. For example, if you want your dog to look like you, you would buy a breed that has some characteristics that you have. A heavy-set person might have a bulldog or other big dog. A tall, thin person might have a greyhound. Nobody actually looks like a Pomeranian or a teacup poodle, for example, so it would be difficult for an owner of such an animal to look like the dog. Of course there is that special variety of pet owner that likes to dress their pets and themselves in matching outfits. I guess that would make them look alike, but again, it’s only a created example, rather than a real one.
Actually this is a fascinating question and I think it’s true. How many times I look at a person walking his dog and they look terribly alike? A coincidence? I really don’t think so. The fact is the more time we spend with another living creature, the more we look like them.
It needs to be tested. Morphing happens in other species so why not ours.
Kind of freaky to think of. Our face is who we are.
I loved these girls back in the day. My best friend is a twin and she definitely does not look as much like her twin as she used to.
Not surprising if it turns out to be true.
Do you think these differing features have a lot to do with environments and experiences? I have this theory that a persons environment and experiences shape they way their are, obviously mentally but possibly physically. Most twins do grow up together, but have differing experiences and go to different places. I think it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that people can morph based on the interactions they have; we are sensitive creatures.
I like this post. The environment definitely does have a big impact on an individual. What you said isn’t far-fetched at all. Great read!
It would be very interesting if this was proven to be true. But maybe there is a not so interesting explanation, and I think that would be the fact that living with someone for a long period of time, going through the same events, eating the same food, having similar lifestyles, etc can and does affect the way we look.
I agree, there are definitely many things that could possibly cause morphing in individuals. The knowledge of question in this article is amazing! Over the years, I have found anything is possible, especially the ability f morphing.
I don’t know that a person would morph to look like someone else, but I do think that as a person ages and time is spent together, their similar features become more and more noticeable, even when they aren’t related. It would be interesting to see a study on this!
I suppose it is a strong possibility, but without hard evidence I would find it hard to believe, although I am aware that some species can morph already. It is just one of those things that has not been proven yet, but would be fascinating to find out!
A think a mix of internal and external factors comes into play. I’ve actually been friends with far more pairs of twins than I ever imagined, and those with more varied hobbies and interests have a greater variation in appearance than those who share the same interests and hobbies. I was actually pondering about that for a time, and I’m glad I ran into this post.
I love your blog! You always pose some of the most interesting questions!
I firmly believe that we morph slightly to match those around us. We already know that we change thought patterns and movements to mimic those around us so that we fit in better. This ensures survival and our ability to stay within our chosen group.
As a teacher, I had twins in one of my classes. One was very academically oriented, the other was more interested in social interaction and “fun”. Even at their young age, I could see the small variations in their faces and actions so that I could always tell them apart. It drove them crazy that they couldn’t fool me! Yes, they may have similar genes, but the external factors (and their own internal desires/thoughts/feelings) shape them in subtle ways to match their chosen group.
In nature we see it all the time. Adaptability is a survival trait. I believe humans have this ability as well. We also gain a lot of our features from example. Facial expressions and mannerisms are learned more so then inherited, though there is some inherited features as well. An adopted child finds its biological parents and discovers similarities in their reactions to things and taste in food. However, the influence of their adoptive parents is also present.
This is an interesting topic to touch on but I’m not sure it’s the same for everyone. For me, I don’t look anything like my mom and dad but I look like one of my uncles. Though some of my gestures are like my father (walking, coughing, etc.), I don’t really look similar to him at all. In my case I might have adapted to his gestures and ways of life then actual facial morph. But believe me, I’ve also met people who look a lot like their parents, just not the same for everyone I suppose.
My grandfather is a twin and he has two siblings that are also twins. However, he doesn’t look like his twin; he looks like the twin from the other sets of twins (same for his twin). That was confusing. 😀 However, I’ve always been fascinated about the concept of twins diverging from each other in physical appearance. Excellent read!
If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that this phenomenon is completely normal in various domestic animals and such. If that is indeed the case, then why should we humans be any different? This “morphing” discovery could really prove to be a breakthrough if it is indeed proven to be true, and we certainly need to take a further look into it.
I am really not an expert in biology, but does anyone think that twins grown together end up looking different because of the need for differentiation? Everyone wants to be unique – their very own person. When you are a twin, that luxury is taken from you. That’s why I think that this might be one factor of the morphing ability present in twins.
Does anyone else agree, or am I talking nonsense here?
You’re not talking nonsense here. I know from my twin friends that they’ve hated the fact that they look the same for as long as they can remember. When they were kids they were kind of nagged about how they look the same and nowadays they kind of have some differentiating factors like: the type of personality, some facial traits and so on.
This is a fascinating article. I’m no biologist, or geneticist, so kindly forgive any mistakes I may make in the comments that follow.
I’m aware that we can change certain aspects of our appearance by lifestyle changes. If you eat junk food, drink alcohol and smoke every day, and don’t exercise, and you all of a sudden start eating fruits and vegetables, no processed foods, quit drinking and smoking and exercising every day, within a relatively short time, you will notice drastic changes in your skin and hair: Less wrinkles, softer skin, softer hair, less gray hair, etc. And vice versa of course.
Eye color has been known to change with mood, but very slightly. If you have light blue eyes, and decide you want dark brown eyes, then you are probably just going to have to buy colored contact lenses.
The same thing with height. There are plenty of people who wish they were taller or shorter or whatever.
My point is that some things we can control and “morph,” but other things will require some science, that maybe just hasn’t been invented yet. But, the advances in biotechnology and the human genome….. well, who knows what is coming?!?!?!
Interesting point! It all comes down to the age-old question of nature vs. nurture. How important are genetics in determining how we look, and how important is our diet, amount of physical exercise etc.?
Wow, this is amazing! I’ve never heard of morphing to begin with and it does bring up the question as to if twins raised by different parents would have different features. I’d love to see a study done about that…I bet they’d find some morphing does occur.
Someone mentioned eyes changing color. My eyes have always changed color both permently throughout my life and based on mood and if I’m ill. I was born with light blue eyes, throughout childhood had brown eyes, by age 12 had super dark brown eyes. Now as an adult I have hazel eyes that turn almost completely green sometimes and then all brown if I’m not feeling well.
Us humans are amazing critters!
Twin studies in psychology are always very interesting. Because you have two of almost identical people to see how life’s circumstances effect them. The ability to morph is fascinating. If proven true it would show how much of an influence environmental factors have on humans.
What you’re missing is that there’s no demand for this, I personally don’t care about our ability to morph, I mean I could have looked different if grew up differently so what?
I wouldn’t be surprised if this was true. I’ve heard people say couples will look alike the older they get. I used to look more like my dad when I was a boy, but now I look more than my mom, who I spent much more time with. Coincidence? I’m a skeptic so I’ll say this is nothing but mumbo jumbo until proven otherwise.
I have heard about this before. When you grow up you start to look like your husband or wife because you start to morph like you said. Or the same thing when you’re a twin. I mean it makes sense because you’re all living together in one house and you spend a lot of time together and you all change. My sister and I since we were little were always told that we look so much alike in baby photos. Then as we grow older, we don’t look so much alike. I mean there are obvious traits that we have that are the same, but some went away that made us look the same. I mean I have to say that our whole family pretty much meshes together because we do look alike.
I don’t think who raised each twin can possibly make a difference to their appearance. It’s all genetics. It would be cool for sure but it’s not possible. A European being adopted by an Asian could look more Asian? A white person being adopted by a black family becomes more black in skin colour? Their personalities and interested may adapt to the families but not their appearance
We treat people who look more like us better? I’ve never heard of such an idea before, but it’s pretty surprising. Some of the people who are closest to me look nothing like me, or are of a completely race.
However, I don’t find it weird that twins raised apart have different average variations, because they’ve been brought up differently and in completely different environments.
This brings to mind how lifelong friends somehow seem to look similar or even an entire neighborhood exhibiting similar physical traits regardless of ancestry and family ties. Whether that’s related to the science being investigated relating to “morping”, I’m not so sure. It does bring in a different angle in terms of determining if one “morphs” to somehow mirror another person by promixity or, as an antithesis of sorts, rather if two individuals react independently of one another but actually change due to the same environmental factors in an area.
Haven’t heard of this before. I have heard the old adage that married people start to look like each other, so maybe there is some truth to it. I don’t know how well you could control or use this, though. How would you predict the way a person’s face would change? And who is going to be the model, the person we want to child to look like?
There’s been a lot of study on whether environmental factors can be influenced to predict outcomes in everything from behavior and linguistics to physicality and socialization. The reality is that factors cannot really be manipulated precisely enough to create deterministic results.
It would be interesting to see if such variations would be possible, but it seems likely that they would be down to a combination of genetics and environment more than social aspects.
There’s this old saying in our country which says that the longer a couple is together, the more they look alike. In fact, my husband and I have been told so many times by friends and relatives that we already look alike lol. I don’t know if there is any basis for this saying or for the idea that those who live together has their features morph. I think it’s more of adapting the habits of the other person. I know I did incorporate some of my hubby’s habits into my own.
It’s quite a weird idea but I think we need a bit of research about it. Sounds interesting still, doesn’t it?
A lot of interesting and contrasting thoughts. I have been with my partner for 6 years now, when we were about 3 years in we both worked at a pub together which as some may know includes a lot of conversations with patrons and, a lot of the customers thought that were actually related as in brother and sister. When asked why they thought this they said it’s that we share a lot of the same mannerisms and look alike, which I found strange because we are form completely different ancestry and frankly we look nothing alike aside from being the same height. So it seems that people do ‘rub off’ on each other after spending a lot of time together, I can’t say that it happens with pets as I’ve never really paid that much attention to them. Anyway, I think its rooted in our bodies natural ability to adapt, both psychologically and biologically, its what has kept our species alive for thousands of years. For example, I use my computer a lot, several hours every day and as an artist, my right hand is on my mouse most of the time and on my right hand right where my palm starts in line with my pinky there is a bone that has become a lot pronounced than the same bone on my left hand. It’s not deformed or anything but there is a visible difference in bone structure, in small scale like the differences of in bone structure of English long-bowmen in the middle ages. Back to topic, I think the differences emerge because it the way that the human body reacts and adapts to life experiences.
Our society has a vary big impact on who we are, not only that but we do adapt to it. It’s interesting that sometimes you can tell people from which country they are from just by the way they dress and carry themselves. It would be interesting to see images of identical twins that were separated at birth but were raised in different countries.
That’s true, many times I see someone coming and I know from which country they are just by the way they dress and move. So we do adjust to the environment, but we also adapt to each others and we have the capacity to adopt their expressions.
I suppose if you grow up with people and you like them you try to look and act like them. If you basically walk the walk and talk the talk you can almost exactly assimilate them.
Kind of like if you keep thinking you are a certain way and merely acting like you are that way, you will in reality start becoming that way.
Since you like them doing what they do and acting like they do would make you feel good so it would come natural. Attempting things with a natural like grace usually produces the best results instead of agonizing and stressing out over doing it right.
I think you may be on to something. Not exactly morph as you put it but grow apart. Twins grown up together will sometimes do the same things. So many things are a factor here though. Maybe one twin is pressured to be the same as the other. Maybe the both really like doing the same thing together, so even though a certain job field isn’t the favorite, they do it anyway. I have friends who are twins. Not identical. However, it is extremely scary how often they say the same things and have the same thought process.
They both ended up marrying sisters that almost look like twins. They both work construction. They claim that when one is sick they can tell the difference. On the other hand, twins grown up apart have done the exact same thing too. As it was the case with the twins in the news who grew up having never met, both married twins (different twins though) both did the same job, dressed similar. Twins are remarkable!
Truly morphing is a thing, although not as people see it in the movies.
It’s more of a genetics phenomenon:
Researchers have recently found that our early environment is affecting the expression of our genome through epigenetics. Strong impressionable events can basicaly change the amount of a gene’s function through a process called methyliosis.
The exact precise mechanism of this phenomenon is not quite known, but this is how twins separated at birth can grow to appear and behave differently.
Of course it’s not “truly” morphing, but the fact is that we pick up a smile, we pick up some gestures and eventually yes, our face tend to be similar to the people, animals and objects we spend a lot of time with. I don’t think it’s a mind suggestion as there are obvious resemblances in many cases.
This is so interesting… If at the end of the day, we are just a result of multiple factors just like, biology, environment and culture, why wouldn’t our bodies take a step forward and start to physically show those features? That would be really interesting and maybe parents who raised adopted kids would feel more close to them, even if physical appearance doesn’t do anything for a lot of parents, it could be an interesting feature when it comes to twins, I guess.
I suppose a big part of twins starting to look different would have to do with which of their genes are activated or switched off by their environment; and that could include a psychological desire to more resemble a parent, or even another respected elder. We have so much still to learn about this field, I think we are going to see some very interesting things discovered in the field of genetics!