Over time, do couples really end up looking alike?

Do we physically look more like our life partner over the years? This is what a study published in 1987 advanced. Later taken up in many psychology courses, this assertion had never been scientifically confirmed or refuted. Recently, a research team in turn looked into the question, before contradicting previous findings.

Pin Pin Tea-makorn, a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Stanford University, and Michal Kosinski, professor of psychology at the same institution, are at the origin of this new study which reverses the idea established for years that members of a couple, over time, tend to resemble each other physically. To do this, the duo first recovered photos of 517 couples: one taken within two years of their marriage and another taken between twenty and sixty-nine years after the happy event.

In order to establish whether the faces of the different people in the couples became more similar after a few years, the scientists showed volunteer people the photo of an individual, as well as those of six other people, one of whom was his wife. or her husband. Research participants then had to determine how similar the six individuals photographed looked to the person in the first image. Later, advanced facial recognition software did the same.

This study is inspired by that conducted by psychologist Robert Zajonc in 1987. For his research, this researcher from the University of Michigan asked volunteers to prioritize the photos of a dozen couples. He eventually concluded that the couples' faces looked more alike after a while of marriage. According to psychologists, this was explained in particular by the fact that a couple shared the same diet, the same hygiene of life, etc.

In search of the person who looks like us

Conversely, the recent study produced by Stanford University and published in Scientific Reports does not find any clue to prove the hypothesis that couples are more alike over time. Research suggests, however, that when two people get into a relationship, they already tend to share a few physical traits. Therefore, we would look for a partner who looks like us.

For their next study, Pin Pin Tea-makorn and Michal Kosinski want to investigate the idea that it would be possible to guess a person's name just by examining their face. Once again, the scientific duo are skeptical.

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