Study debunks theory that couples grow to look alike
A decades-old question of whether couples in long-term relationships begin to look alike over time has been answered by researchers.
In 1987, researchers suggested that spouses’ faces were not similar at the outset of marriage but became more similar, with the “degree of convergence positively correlated with couples’ ratings of marriage quality”.
According to the researchers’ hypothesis, couples tend to begin looking alike because they typically “occupy the same environments, engage in the same activities, eat the same food, and mimic each other’s emotional expressions,” all of which can influence facial features.
However, a new study by researchers at Stanford University found that there is actually no evidence that couples look more alike as time passed.
This study examined facial images of 517 couples taken at the beginning of their marriages and then 20 to 69 years later.
Volunteers were shown the images and told there was a ‘target’ person that needs to be compared to six other faces – one of which was the target’s spouse.
The judges participating in the study were then asked to rank the target person against the other six based on how much they looked alike.
The volunteers were able to pair the target with their spouse regardless of when the image was taken and also noted that spouses’ faces became slightly less similar with time.
According to the study, which was published in Scientific Reports, the researchers “did not find evidence for the convergence in physical appearance hypothesis: Spouses’ faces did not become more similar with time.”
“Spouses’ faces tended to be similar but did not become more similar with time, regardless of the time span between the first and the second set of pictures,” they wrote, noting that people may seek out partners who are similar looking just as they look for partners with similar values.