It may not be the question for the ages, but it certainly is a question that has been pondered for centuries: Do couples really start to look like each other the longer they are together?
A pioneering study conducted in 1987 by University of Michigan psychologist Robert Zajonc suggested that, based on factors such as diet, lifestyle, and compatibility, spouses began to resemble each other over time. However, since the comparative data was collected from a small group of human volunteers, it was highly subjective.
With that in mind, some researchers at Stanford University decided to put the matter through a more clinical trial. “It’s something that people believe in and we were curious about it,” Ph.D. student Pin Pin Tea-makorn said The Guardian. “Our initial thinking was that if people’s faces converge over time, we could see what kinds of characteristics they converge on.”
Working with her Stanford colleague, Michal Kosinski, Tea-makorn produced a photographic database that tracked 517 couples for evidence of progressive facial assimilation. Initial images taken within two years of the couples’ union were compared with images 20 to 69 years later.
Bottom line: using data gleaned from human volunteers, as well as tracking state-of-the-art facial recognition software, the findings did not appear any evidence of the phenomenon of face change.
While some long-term couples look like each other more than randomly matched duos, it’s likely due to the fact that they started out with similar characteristics to begin with.
The explanation for this anomaly is generally attributed to what is known as “the mere exposure effect” or the preference for choosing things with which we are already comfortable.
It is the same reason that people so often look like their dogs and vice versa, at least according to one article in Psychology Today by Stanley Coren Ph.D.
So if you and your partner start to look suspiciously similar as time goes on, chances are only you are to blame.
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