Double-goers: The Science behind Doppelgangers

If this is the first time you are hearing the word doppelgangers and thinking, “is it a weird German word?” You are right! The word doppelganger does come from the German word “Doppelgänger” which literally means “double-goer, although it is a term generally used for someone’s look alike. In German mythology the occurrence of doppelgangers were said to be a paranormal phenomena- and people generally believed that if you ever saw your doppelganger you were going to experience bad luck. Maybe it is true that doppelgangers do not only exist in ancient books and in an episode of How I Met your Mother (very enjoyable episode by the way), maybe science can explain the occurrence of doppelgangers. Let’s have a look.

People have often said that celebrities Zooey Deschanel, Emily Blunt and Katy Perry are doppelgangers.

According to science, only identical human beings can completely look alike to each other- and even then one can find some differences. Fraternal twins are those who are born from two different fertilized egg cells, so they mostly do not look a lot like each other in the first place, but some similarities are generally visible. So if you have ever run into someone who looks a lot like someone you know or even into someone who resembles you- chances are your brain is in play. Zaria Gorvett, in an article for the BBC explained that our brains first perceives the whole image of people we might see on the train or in our neighborhood park. Instead of scrutinizing every individual feature properly, we go for saying “Oh I know someone who looks a lot like you” just because the shape of their face, hairline or skin tone might be similar to someone we might know. We share a lot of our DNA with other human beings- as we should- because similarities in a specific animal species aren’t a rare occurrence.

People who belong to the same region are more likely to share genetic makeup. When human evolution was happening, mobility wasn’t easy as it is in these times. So, it is probable that a specific set of genes were limited to a certain population, and maybe that reflects in our appearances. There are seven billion people living on earth right now and we began with only a few, sharing genetic similarities therefore doesn’t come out as a huge shock. Sometimes doppelgangers could be a problem for police forces and other investigation authorities as they rely heavily on face-recognizing technologies to catch criminals. Maybe scientists will soon come up new effective ways to differentiate between two people who look alike. We wonder how Apple’s face recognition software will do against this strange mystery of doppelgangers.


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