Ever thought that perhaps there’s another version of yourself going about day to day, not only looking like you but making the same life decisions? Maybe you have a real life doppelganger secretly whisked away shortly after birth. As scientists battle it out over the nurture versus nature debate, there are some examples of twins out there who make a good case for the genetic argument.

Twins separated at birth, raised by different parents, and sometimes in different countries under different religions, often wind up so fundamentally similar. Are we all destined to be who we’re supposed to be, despite our parents, governments, schools, and employers twisting us all out of shape? That’s what we’ll find out, in this episode of The Infographics Show – Separated at Birth but Living the Same Life.

In 1979, a team at the University of Minnesota lead by Thomas Bouchard researched the lives of identical twins separated at birth. Some of these pairs had hardly met before taking part in the research, yet had lead totally similar lives. The Minnesota team discovered that about 70% of IQ was due to genetic differences, and the remaining 30% due to environmental factors.

A study in 1990 found that separated twins were more likely to become religious, and another study suggested that happiness and well-being had a 50% genetic influence. So how happy we are, and how smart we are, really doesn’t correspond much to how we were brought up. Interestingly, 80% of those reunited twins stated that they felt closer and more familiar to their newly discovered twin than they had ever felt about their previous best friends. There’s no denying the genetic bond and similarities with these twins. Let’s take a look at some examples.          

Oskar Stohr and Jack Yufe were born in Trinidad. Oskar was brought up as a Catholic in Germany and had leanings towards the Hitler youth movement. Meanwhile, Jack stayed in the Caribbean and for a time in Israel, and was brought up Jewish. Despite the stark contrast of their upbringings, they both wore the same overcoat when they met for the first time and had the exact same hairstyle. Not only that, they both shared the same quirky penchant for flushing the toilet before they used it. They had similar speech and thought patterns, and both had a taste for spicy foods, which may have explained the strange toilet flushing ritual.

Daphne Goodship and Barbara Herbert were first reunited at age 40. After their single mother committed suicide, they were adopted into separate British homes. They both discovered they had both left school at the same age and held similar government jobs. They both met their husbands at the same age, had both miscarried a child the same year, and later both gave birth to a boy and a girl in the same order. They both share the same quirk of giggling and folding their arms, drinking cold coffee, and the pair even discovered that they both randomly cooked the same meal from the same recipe book on the same day in the same year.

In our next example, while twin Adrianna was raised Catholic, her sister Tamara was raised Jewish. They both enjoy the night time over day, and both love to dance. They both desire to have a boy and a girl (in that order) and they both share the same favorite Pantene shampoo brand. Despite the fact that Tamara attended a top private school and Adriana went to an everyday public school, they both struggled with math and both were above average students, scoring mostly “As.”.

Next up, despite being separated at birth and raised by different sets of parents, both Paul Bernstein and Elyse Schein had become editors on the school newspaper, they had both studied film at university, and had both finally become writers. They didn’t know any of this until they met at age 35. They also discovered their separation was deliberate, and part of a nurture vs nature Yale experiment. Their adoptive parents were none the wiser, too. Bernstein, speaking to The Telegraph, explained “Since meeting Elyse, it is undeniable that genetics play a huge role – probably more than 50%. It’s not just our taste in music or books; it goes beyond that. In her, I see the same basic personality. And yet, eventually, we had to realize that we’re different people with different life histories.”               

Perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most famous twins separated at birth were the Jim twins. Both James “Jim” Lewis and James “Jim” Springer of Ohio were adopted in 1940, just three weeks after they were born. Lewis lived with a family in Lima, Ohio, and Springer lived with a family in Piqua, Ohio. Both were named James and both had a dog named Toy. Both Jims enjoyed math and carpentry at school, and both disliked spelling. As young men, both married a woman named Linda, and both divorced their Lindas and later married women named Betty.

They both had a son named James. One son was a security guard and the other a deputy sheriff. Both sons drove a Chevrolet and smoked heavily. When both twins eventually met, they were amazed to discover they had had almost identical lives while living 45 miles from one another. They both suffered from tension headaches and were prone to nail biting. They both smoked the same brand of cigarettes and shared the same holiday destination each year. The Jim Twins were just one of 137 pairs of twins reared separately the team studied from 1979 to 1999, but were without a doubt the most surprisingly similar of the test group.            

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