Wednesday, January 07, 2009

2008 Hotel California #9

#9. From a gold medal we go to an even bigger accomplishment for the number 9 event. How can that be possible? What is bigger than a gold medal? Nate and Amy are the first couple to accomplish something that typical takes a lifetime. They are the first Hotel California family to do this. The rest of us aren’t even close. Our #9 event of the year goes to Nate Ashcraft and his family for attaining every family’s goal to look exactly like each other.

You've probably seen it before -- two elderly people walking hand in hand down the street or sitting at a cafĂ©, resembling each other so strongly that they could be siblings. Do these couples actually look alike, and if so, what's caused them to develop this way? It’s not partner identity theft, it’s not copycating, it’s just a natural, morphing into a couple-actualized state.

This phenomenon has been scientifically documented and proven to lift marriage to a higher, elevated state. Don’t confuse this with the theory that dogs tend to look like their owners. That is false and unsubstantiated. A Roy and Christenfeld (2004) study found that, yes, dogs do resemble their owners, but only if they're purebreds - that's the dogs now, not the owners. But a Levine (2005) study, reanalysing the data collected in the first study, said no - there's problems with Roy and Christenfeld's (2004) study, methodology and findings. This means we can't yet be sure purebred dogs resemble their owners.

Would you believe that people who live with each other for 25 years actually develop similar facial features? I don't just mean that people tend to choose partners who resemble them, rather that over time together couple's features actually converge. It's weird, but there's evidence for it. A study carried out by the noted psychologist Robert Zajonc and colleagues found that empathy causes facial similarity between couples to increase over time. This proven theory states people grow to look similar because they are empathising with each other and so copying each other's facial expressions. Over time because of all the empathising they are doing, their faces come to look more similar. For example, if one partner often smiles in a particular way, the other is likely to copy it - so creating similar patterns of wrinkles and furrows on the face.

Not convinced? If you don’t believe that, according to an even more credible source, Cosmopolitan magazine, the longer a couple is together, the more likely the two people may start to look more and more like each other. Nowhere is that phenomenon more evident, they say, than in Hollywood, where romances seem to escalate at lightning speed. Just look at how Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have become twins. In essence, they’ve proven that being famous escalates the time needed to reach twin status with your spouse. Nate and Amy not only did it, but did it in celebrity time.

What’s the benefit? Well, a better marriage, of course. A past study showed that genetically similar people have better marriages. Such families have fewer incidents of child abuse, a lower rate of miscarriages, tend to be more selfless, and shag better, too. A straw poll of people I've talked to about this research reveals a polarised reaction. Some think that growing to look more like your partner is an horrific idea. Others, though, think there's something very sweet and romantic about it. I think I'm in the latter camp. Congrats twins Nate and Amy on the #9 spot. You’ve achieved in 8 years what takes most a lifetime.

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