Would you believe me if I told you after 25 years of marriage couples actually develop similar facial features? I do not mean couples select a spouse with similar facial features already, rather I suggest that over time, a couple will actually mature to look more and more like each other.
Sounds strange, right? Research suggests this phenomenon could be due to empathetic mimicry. Empathetic mimicry is the act of copying your spouse’s facial expressions to let them know you are feeling what they are going through. As the couple mimics facial expressions, over time their faces grow and mature to have similar lines and features. And believe it or not, the longer two lovebirds stay together, the stronger the resemblance grows to be.
University of Michigan psychologist Robert Zajonc was interested in this phenomenon and conducted a study to discover exactly how this happens.
Zajonc and fellow researchers invited couples who have remained married for 25 years to submit photographs of themselves as newlyweds and a current picture of the couple. These photos were analyzed to test the phenomenon of two people morphing to look alike over time. No pictures of the couple together were submitted, only headshots of each individual.
Next, researchers invited 110 participants to come to the lab and analyze the photographs. After examining head shots of newlyweds and older photos, participants were asked to pair individuals into couples based on similar appearance.
After analysis, results showed that participants correctly paired couples together based on undeniable facial similarities. Also, the happier the couple claimed to be, the more likely they were to have physical similarities.
How is this possible?
Does this study actually suggest if you stick with your partner, you will end up looking more and more like them as the decades go by? This assumption raises questions that cannot be ignored.
The authors and contributors of the study cannot conclude one specific reason why this phenomenon seems to occur, but they do have a few speculations:
Eating the same food as one another could be a possible contributor to why couples have facial features that grow similar over time. Certain diets can contribute to facial puffiness. Two people who share meals for years and years certainly can develop the same puffiness.
Living under the same roof in the same space is also another factor for this phenomenon. Environmental factors such as the amount of sunshine you experience can affect skin appearance.
Psychologists agree this factor to be the most telling. As people grow and develop a life together they emphasize and react to one another. Couples copy each other’s facial expressions to provide support and over time the face grows to have similar lines and wrinkles due to particular facial expressions.
Although this study is subjective, it does make you think. Next time you are at your in-laws, perhaps take a glance at their facial features… Are they starting to look alike?