A double is scientifically possible

Doppelganger: These people are not twins

It's shown in your passport, on your insurance card, on your driver's license. Maybe you can use it to unlock your smartphone or even unlock and lock the front door of your smart home as a key replacement. When someone thinks of you, he * she has it in mind: your face. It makes you recognizable and unmistakable, even more than your name, your height or your clothes. The special shape and color of your eyes, the big nose or the small ears, the high forehead or the full lips make you unique.

But is uniqueness really possible? With the 7.8 billion people on earth, shouldn't there be a minimal probability that two people who are not related will look alike?

Whether there are doppelgangers is a question of approach

Everyone has a doppelganger somewhere in the world, it is popularly known. Someone who looks very similar to you. However, research on this is sparse and, if at all, comes to the opposite conclusion. In 2015, for example, Teghan Lucas, a doctoral student at the University of Adelaide School of Medicine, compared the facial features of almost 4,000 people. She wanted to find out how likely it was that two people would look the same based on these characteristics.

The result brings bad news for anyone looking for their duplicate: with eight facial features, such as the size of the ears or the distance between the eyes, the probability of finding two faces of the same size in the general population was less than a trillion. With only seven features left, Lucas could no longer find any matches. She published the study on this in the journal Forensic Science International. According to this, anthropometric facial measurements are just as precise as fingerprints or DNA when it comes to identifying criminals.

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The study is based on exact measurements. If the distance between the eyes is around 30 millimeters in one case, but only 29 in the next, this probably would not have counted as a match. However, if you abandon the claim of a crystal clear comparison, if you pay attention to similarity instead of equality, things will look different. We recognize and read faces in their entirety, as the sum of their individual characteristics. We do not perceive differences as small as millimeters. Seen in this way, the probability of finding a doppelganger is suddenly no longer that low.

“There are only so many genes in the world that determine the shape of the face. So it will inevitably happen, ”said Winrich Freiwald in 2016 BBC. He conducted research on facial perception at Rockefeller University in New York. Freiwald thinks that there is almost certainly someone somewhere who * has facial features like you. Or him. Just all of us.

How we perceive faces is ultimately subjective. Whether we find similarities also depends on individual memories, personal feelings and expectations. Some people are colloquially face-blind and find it difficult to remember the appearance of others. Others remember the face of someone they only met once somewhere for many years. Does the following situation sound familiar to you? A friend pulls out her cell phone and holds out a photo to you: "Look, that could be your doppelganger!", She says and tells how enthusiastic her friends are already about it. But you just don't want to find any resemblance. Perception of oneself and that of others can drift far apart, especially when it comes to one's own appearance.

Whether you recognize a resemblance is a matter of opinion

François Brunelle had the same experience. For his project I'm not a look-alike! the photographer from Canada was looking for people who look so alike that they could be twins. The idea for this arose from my own experiences. For years, people have believed that he would look like Mr. Bean, the clumsy character from the TV series of the same name played by Rowan Atkinson. So it was obvious for him to take up the topic and continue it as a project of his own.

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“There are two types of doppelgangers,” says Brunelle to ze.tt, “those who already know each other. And those who meet for the first time in front of my camera. ”There are no big surprises with the former. They have already been confused by teachers, staff and classmates in the past and are happy that their similarity is captured on a professional photo. With the latter, however, the reaction varied, from a (mostly happy) surprise to an almost shocked exclamation, "Do I really look that way!" Not all of Brunelle's models would be able to accept the envisaged similarity. But those who did that would immediately have hit it off perfectly. “When you meet someone who looks like you, you bond instantly because you share something,” says the 70-year-old photographer.

When you meet someone who looks like you, you bond instantly because you share something.

Brunelle published the photos in black and white on purpose. In this way, viewers can concentrate on the pure architecture of the faces and are not distracted by pink cheeks, different eye colors or different skin tones.

Whether the doppelgangers actually look alike is ultimately a question of the viewer. According to Brunelle, out of ten people, every viewer would have a different view of whether and how similar someone is. “I am not claiming that the people in my work are identical. I only take pictures of people who are viewed as such by other people. ”So after completing his project, he changed its original name from The look-alikes to I'm not a look-alike !.

Incidentally, Brunelle tried to win Rowan Atkinson for a personal comparison as part of the photo project: in vain. He was too shy for that.