A study of unrelated individuals that otherwise look very much alike has discovered that the uncanny physical resemblance shared between some individuals runs much deeper than their looks, with many doppelgangers sharing similar behaviors, habits and even matching heights and weights.

The study made use of three different facial recognition algorithms to score the shared likeness of 32 pairs of unrelated look-alike individuals selected from the archives of Canadian artist François Brunelle, who has been compiling a catalogue of pictures of look-alikes from around the world. All three programs classified half of these unrelated twins as “doppelgangers”, with scores similar to what is seen when comparing actual identical twin siblings.

The researchers then performed a genetic study of the 16 doppelgangers and found that nine of the pairs were determined to be classified as “ultra” look-alikes; these pairs shared 19,277 common genetic variations across 3,730 genes, with many of these markers corresponding to genes that control body and facial traits.

And the similarities went even further than their appearance and DNA: through a personal questionnaire the study discovered that these look-alikes also had similar lifestyles, sharing traits such as their level of education, smoking habits and body height and weight.

“These findings do not only provide clues about the genetic setting associated with our facial aspect, and probably other traits of our body and personality, but also highlight how much of what we are, and what defines us, is really inherited or instead is acquired during our lifetime,” according to the study text.

Research being made in regards to the “nature vs. nurture” debate—how much of an individual’s identity has to do with their genetics as opposed to the environmental factors involved in their development—typically studies the circumstances of identical twins, and has only seen limited use of unrelated look-alikes, primarily due to the historical difficulty of matching people located across diverse geographic locations. However, the expanding use of social media has facilitated the discovery by individuals of their doppelgangers, and in turn opening a new avenue of research for behavioral and biological researchers.

Studies such as this also provide better insight into how influential our DNA is on our facial structures, especially in regards to similar facial features amongst individuals that are not genetically related.

“We provided a unique insight into the molecular characteristics that potentially influence the construction of the human face,” explains Manel Esteller, a biomedical scientist from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain.

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