The human mind is complex to say the least. What we believe to be a doppelganger of someone just might be our inability to distinguish the subtle differences in their facial features between the original and double. However, this could also be a result of mental disorders as well.
Is it all in the mind?
Capgras delusion, also known as imposter syndrome, is a psychological condition where an individual irrationally believes that an identical looking imposter has replaced someone they know. They may believe that a family member or even their romantic partner has been replaced by a doppelganger which may lead to problems in the relationship.
Unlike other mental conditions, Capgras syndrome doesn’t affect other aspects of your life except for the belief that an imposter has replaced your loved one. People with this mental disorder believe that the imposter looks exactly like the actual person and only they can identify the disguise of the imposter.
Another variant of the Capgras syndrome, the Fregoli delusion can also make some people believe in the existence of doppelgängers. It is a rare mental disorder that makes someone believe that different individuals are actually the same person who constantly changes their disguise or appearance.
According to a 2006 study, delusional misidentification syndromes (DMS), like the Fregoli and Capgras syndromes, patients with DMS tend to have “identifiable brain lesions, especially in the right frontoparietal and adjacent regions, in a considerable proportion.” This has been revealed by neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies. The study concluded that “Deficits in working memory due to abnormal brain function, are considered to play causative roles in DMS.”
Apart from these, there might be a much simpler explanation behind the mystery of seeing doppelgängers. Forensic scientist & facial recognition expert, Dr. Daniele Podini of George Washington University in Washington believes that how we look at faces is greatly influenced by our own experiences and context.
When two individuals wear the same clothes or have the same haircuts with similar physiques, we tend to believe that they look alike due to confirmation bias. It is a cognitive bias and a psychological tendency to seek, interpret, prefer, and recall details that verify, supports and confirm our personal values and beliefs. It allows our minds to adjust certain facts to fit familiar and expected patterns.
Are doppelgangers real?
It depends on your perception and what you believe to be true. Although we may have similar looking doubles or look-alikes, having an exact doppelgänger or an unrelated identical twin stranger may be less likely.
So even though some of your friends may believe that they saw someone who looks “exactly” like you, the possibilities of having an evil twin trying to take over your life is highly unlikely.
So the next time you see someone who looks the same as you or your friend, simply smile and greet. You just might make a new (not evil) friend.