Is there someone in the world who looks exactly like you? Is it even scientifically possible to have a doppelganger? With over 7 billion people in the world, it just might be possible that someone resembles you.
What is a doppelganger?
Doppelgänger is a German word that literally translates to double-walker. In a general sense, the term is widely used to mean someone who physically resembles you but is not related to you. To put it simply, a doppelganger is a non-biologically related lookalike, someone who is not genetically connected to you or your family, yet they have oddly similar physical features.
Although today the word may mean a twin stranger or a double, traditionally a doppelgänger referred to our alter ego or our ghostly counterpart and seeing one could lead to misfortune and bad luck. However, according to some traditions, a doppelgänger may also mean an evil twin.
“Folk wisdom has it that everyone has a doppelganger; somewhere out there there’s a perfect duplicate of you, with your mother’s eyes, your father’s nose and that annoying mole you’ve always meant to have removed,” writes science journalist Zaria Gorvett for BBC. She adds “We live on a planet of over seven billion people, so surely someone else is bound to have been born with your face? It’s a silly question with serious implications – and the answer is more complicated than you might think.”
According to paranormal researcher and author Stephen Wagner doppelgängers have been traditionally considered as sinister and evil entities. Hence, there is a lot of superstition surrounding the concept. It has been found that most reports of doppelganger sightings are nothing more than cases of mistaken identity. However, he explains, “such an explanation becomes harder to accept when they are seen by best friends, siblings, and parents who know the real person intimately. It seems hard to believe that they would be fooled by another person who simply resembles the original.”
Whether just a lookalike or a paranormal being trying to steal your life, the question that needs to be answered is – Are doppelgängers real? Do you really have a doppelganger somewhere out there?
The science of doppelganger
Despite all the folklore, literature, and horror movies, it is highly unlikely that you have a doppelgänger who looks exactly like you, says science. According to a 2015 study by researchers Teghan Lucas & Maciej Henneberg in Australia, there is only a one in 135 chance that there’s an exact pair of complete doppelgangers in the world. The study analyzed the probability of 2 different unrelated individuals matching up in 8 key facial features. However, the research revealed that having a twin stranger or an exact identical look-alike, involving all the 8 facial features, is only one in 1 trillion.
Dr. Teghan Lucas, a forensic anthropologist at The University of New South Wales, who assessed over 4,000 faces from the US Anthropometric Survey (ANSUR) and measured 8 distinct facial features, explains “If we are talking about measurements of the face there is a 1 in a trillion chance that 2 or more people will match one another on 8 measurements of the face.”
The chances of finding a doppelganger became even slimmer when Dr. Lucas analyzed the rest of the body for similarities. She adds “If we look at measurements of the body, the chance is even lower at 1 in a quintillion based on 8 measurements. This is because these measurements are larger and thus have a larger range which means there is less chance for people to match each other.”
So despite how similar a stranger may look to us or our friends and family, it is highly unlikely that someone will be exactly similar to another person in the true sense of the word doppelganger. Dr. Lucas says “Two people may look very similar to the naked eye but when you start measuring they will not match each other.”