“I saw someone who looked just like you!”
You’ve probably heard that at least once in your lifetime. But are people who look exactly like us possible?
Michael Sheehan, an assistant professor of neurobiology and behaviour at Cornell University says it is.
He concluded in a recent study that our faces have evolved due to the importance of individuality to our species.
Think about it: you walk down a street and you see a multitude of faces. How many look almost the same? Now, take a walk in a park and look at the squirrels bandying about. Can you really tell them apart?
“Humans are really phenomenally diverse, but you don’t see that in other species,” said Sheehan.
So what about the stories we read and the accompanying photos where two people definitely look strikingly similar? It might be a case of our genes running out of options.
“It’s like a Rubik’s Cube — you can get a lot of variation,” Sheehan said. However, “There’s sort of a numbers game to it.”
Though our features vary more than any other animal, our genes do not. In fact, we aren’t that genetically diverse. So eventually, the numbers would dictate that certain features resembling yours and will randomly combine.
But that doesn’t mean they are an exact duplicate of you.
Take a look at the doppelgangers: they might have the same smile, same colour eyes, but look closer. You will undoubtedly spot something that isn’t quite exact between the two.
Niamh Geany with her second twin stranger, Luisa Guizzardi
Niamh Geany with her first twin stranger, Karen Branigan
There’s also the case of our brains.
If you’ve ever been told you look “exactly” like someone only to wonder what is wrong with your friend’s eyesight, it’s a perception thing. While we know ourselves best — we’ve seen our own faces every day almost since the day we were born — our friends might see a few similar features that stick out to them and equate that with looking “exactly” like you.
Still, it’s interesting that our facial attributes are like a spinning wheel of features. With seven billion people in the world, it’s fun — if not a bit eerie — to think that someone out there looks so much like us that even we have to do a double-take.