Doppelganger – Twin Strangers

Doppelgänger is one of the most fascinating phenomena in the world of science.
Two strangers, with no family connection, look at each other
and it seems like they are looking in a mirror.

The origin of the word Doppelgänger is from the German language.
It is a combination of two nouns:
Doppel = duplicate or copy
Ganger= the one who wanders

Even if those who look like you don’t share DNA with you, it raises fascinating questions about the combination of genes that shape our facial features and appearance. With so many genetic variants for traits such as eye color, hair color/texture, nose shape, etc., what are the odds that some people will randomly end up with a “recipe” that looks very similar?

Today, these “Twin Strangers” find each other mainly on social networks through photos uploaded on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Some of them were contacted by friends who saw the doubles and thought they were looking at their friends, surprised that they uploaded a photo with a different name, in other cases, the people themselves received a notice from Facebook “Someone who might interest you” and found themselves looking at… “themselves”.

Professor Tim Spector, a genetics researcher from North London, saw a photo on Twitter of two red-haired men who happened to be sitting next to each other on a flight, they looked to him like identical twins, only it was their first meeting, they were strangers to each other.

Prof. Spector decided to experiment, the first of its kind in the world in the scope and depth of the research, to test all aspects of the phenomenon.
The experiment began with comprehensive tests of identical biological twins and their results were used as a basis for comparison between the twin strangers.
The highest score that the twin strangers could score, after an overall examination of all the parameters, is the score that the identical twins got.

It is important to remember that even identical twins are not 100% identical and a computer program is needed to identify and record the minor differences between them. The identity test of identical twins yields the result of 90-95% similarity, which is the highest score that pairs of identical twins can reach.

Another fact worth remembering is that the chance of finding a twin in the world is one in a billion.

Step One - Recruitment

Participants were recruited from around the world through social media and other platforms. Advanced facial recognition technology was used to identify pairs of lookalikes from thousands of submitted photos.

Step Two - Screening

The couples were invited for further screening.  where a panel of experts confirmed their physical similarity. By the end of this process, 7 couples were chosen.

Who was chosen?

Darren – 32 years old, an assistant nightclub manager from Glasgow, Scotland.
David – 30 years old, a night club manager, born and raised in Poland, and moved to  London.

Neil Richardson – 70 years old, retired priest in Braintree, Essex.
John Jamieson – 75 years old, retired school principal, lives in Braintree, Essex.

Fiorella – 20 years old, recruitment consultant, lives in London. She is a fan of swimming and has one tattoo.
Ambrosia – 22 years old, a customer rep, lives in Missouri, USA. She has a 2-year-old daughter. She also likes to swim and has a similar tattoo.

Rob Winston– 26 years old, a stand-up comedian and an independent digital marketer from Florida, lives in Paris.
Kobi Belulu – 27 years old, a stand-up comedian, completed a cooking course at Cordon Blu in Woking, Surrey, and is interested in starting a career in food photography.

Billy Wright– 24 years old, works in construction, lives with his wife and three children in Pennsylvania, USA.
Billy Wright – 24 years old, single,  construction worker, lives with his mother in Bournemouth, Dorset, England.

Shannon Lonergan– 21 years old, a County Kerry, Ireland student.
Sarah Nordstrom – 18 years old, studying at a boarding school in Sweden.

Sherry Riley– 19 years old from Bradford-on-Avon, Somerset. Lives with her parents and sister.
Puck – 19 years old, studying international business, lives with her father and younger brother in the Netherlands.  Their favorite food is pasta.

How they met

Darren and David – met through a friend of Darren’s, who was amazed by the similarity after seeing a picture of David on social media, and sent Darren a picture of David. Darren, in turn, sent his photo directly to David.

Neil and John – their story began when Neil decided to retire to a town called Braintree, in Essex to be close to his daughter. He was a stranger in town but as he walked around the town people waved Hello, and he thought to himself that it was a very friendly town.
When he entered the town cafe, the manager called out to him – Hi John, how are you? 
And he answered, my name is not John, my name is Neil. The mystery was solved when they both chose an organized trip with a group of local history buffs. There they met each other face to face for the first time.

Fiorella and Ambrosia – met through the Twin Strangers website. Fiorella was intrigued by the idea of ​​a “secret twin” while Ambrosia “always wanted a big sister”. They first met in Missouri.

Rob and Kobi– met at Rob’s stand-up show in London. During the intermission, one of the audience members turned to Kobi and congratulated him on his performance, to which Kobi replied “Sorry, but I didn’t perform”. It was then that he realized the resemblance between him and Rob led to the confusion.

Billy and Billy – Billy’s cousin from England started a Facebook chat with Billy from the US.

When Billy (USA) replied that he had never been to England, the confusion was understood and the cousin sent Billy (UK) the photo and from there the two continued to chat.

Shannon and Sarah– met through the Twin Strangers website, after which Sarah flew to Dublin to meet Shannon.

Sherry and Puck – met through the Twin Strangers website. When Sherry showed her mother the picture of her doppelgänger, the mother thought she was looking at her daughter.

Step Three- Science

Each couple was digitally photographed and their faces were placed next to each other.
This comparison had two stages:

Two-dimensional – facial recognition software mapped the participants’ faces at 150 points around the face for comparison. (The comparison is very meticulous, for example, just around the lips there are about 30 different points, 20 around the nose and so on).

3D – the most advanced facial mapping system in the world, examined contours and dimensions of the facial features at 20,000 different points on their faces, to determine the degree of similarity.

Step Four- The Human Factor

The ranking of the similarity between the Twin Strangers by 100 people gathered for this purpose.

This stage was also divided into two:

Rating by photo – Enlarged head shots of the couples were placed next to each other and the people walked past them and rated each couple according to the level of similarity.

Face-to-face meeting – The couples sat next to each other, and the people got to meet them and judge their similarity, face-to-face.

Step Five- DNA Testing

Each of the participants took an Ancestry DNA test.
A DNA test is designed to determine whether the similarity between the Twin Strangers is more than coincidence.

The Results

Please be reminded, again, that the range of similarity between biological identical twins is 90-95%. This is the score to which the participants were compared in determining their similarity. (Below is partial information from what was shown in the film)

Darren and David – The eye area was almost the same, the nose ranked at 90%. The DNA test determined they had nothing in common.

Neil and John – The eye similarity 81%, nose area in 3D 90%.
Their life paths were also similar; they both studied teaching at the same time in the 1960s at the same college.
Both sing in a choir and write poetry. Both have sons who play the didgeridoo, both proposed to their wives very shortly after they met, both are members of the same bank, they even join their hands in the same way.
The DNA tests of the two revealed that their origin is also quite the same – each of them shares strong Scandinavian and Eastern European genes – so that from an ethnic point of view they could also be twins.


Fiorella and Ambrosia – The nose score in 2D 89%, in the general score of 2D 50% and in 3D that dropped to 43%. The mouth area 29%.  The overall score of that area was only 7% similarity, which is a similarity that will be found between almost every two random people.
The other test was meeting Ambrosia’s two-year-old daughter who entered the room and addressed her “twin” Fiorella, as her mother.

Rob and Kobi – Overall score in 2D 68%, the eye area in 3D 66%, however in the mouth area in 3D they only scored 6%. The DNA test identified them as fourth cousins.

Billy and Billy – In the 3D image, the similarity around the eye area 71%, and in the overall score 41% similarity.

Shannon and Sarah – The 3D nasal area scored 90% similarity.

Sherry and Puck are similar in character and both of their favorite foods is pasta.

How were the participants ranked according to each parameter?
These couples ranked first in each parameter:

2D image – John & Neil.
3D image – David and Darren.
Photo rating by people – Rob and Kobi.


The final comprehensive rating

  1. 72% – John and Neil
  2. 68% – Kobi and Rob
  3. 51% – Shannon and Sara
  4. 50% – David and Darren
  5. 50% – Ambrosia and Fiorella
  6. 47% – Puck and Sherry
  7. 41%- Billy and Billy


One of the interesting things Prof. Spector found was that each of the 7 pairs had one facial area that was completely identical, to the extent of identical twins.

Prof. Spector claims that this fact influenced the changes in people’s ranking scores.
We as humans, tend to focus on one area of the face (usually the similar one), that focus sways our judgment of the overall face. We project that similarity onto the rest of the face, to the point where the brain concentrates on the similar area and ignores the differences in other areas of the face.


Curious to know if you have a twin?
You can try to upload your photo to the site which as of 2024 contains over 9 million profiles, and I would love for you to share if you found it – TWIN STRANGERS

Want to see the full movie?
Go to link – Finding My Twin Stranger

Sources for writing this article:
The full movie Finding my twin stranger
Article in Mail Online 
Various extracts of the movie on YouTube


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