Twins: Psychics or Sidekicks, Part 1
My photography subject this week: TWINS! Since I birthed a pair, I figured I’d feature them in one of my posts.
Most of us are singletons, meaning we do not have a twin. We look at twins with awe, assuming there is something magical about being a twin. We sometimes assume identical (monozygotic) twins are identical in behavior and appearance. Even twins that are fraternal (dizygotic) will be lumped in with these assumptions. When I tell people I have identical twins they often respond by asking questions based on fallacious notions of what it means to be a twin, so I do my best to educate them. The most common questions are…
Q: Do they have a secret language?
A: Not any more than other babies have their own languages when they are learning to talk. They just have someone their exact age talking back to them. Known as cryptophasia, it is mainly caused by problems with speech development in one or both twins. The speech mimicry twins exhibit leads to speaking similarly, including delays in speech, which end up sounding like another language.
Q: Do they wake up and fall asleep at the same time?
A: I actually remember the nightmare of many a night when one would wake up as soon as the other fell asleep, which meant I was going to be up for a while. I wish they would have been more synchronized in their patterns. Sure, there were instances when their diapers were poopy at the same time or they wanted to feed simultaneously, but if you are looking for patterns, you’ll remember the hits and forget the misses.
Q: Do they finish each other’s sentences?
A: Sure, just like my husband and I do. Just like their sisters do. Just like we all do with friends and family.
Q: Do twins run on your side of the family or your husband’s?
A: First of all, my twins are identical, and identical twins are a completely random occurrence. Scientists have yet to pinpoint exactly why they occur in the first place, but it’s not an inherited trait. Secondly, just to clarify the mechanics a bit, fraternal twins are caused by a woman dropping two or more eggs during ovulation, followed by multiple successful fertilizations. There are even cases of fraternal half-siblings, meaning sperm from different men fertilized different eggs, which I’m sure would lead to a bit of a scandal. As women get into their later child-bearing years they often begin dropping multiple eggs, theoretically due to their reproductive clock running out of time and rushing to increase the chances of having a child. Increased chances of dropping multiple eggs can also be an inherited trait, but to ask which side of the family has twins implies that it’s somehow possible for a man’s genes to cause a woman to drop more eggs. So, women have all the power in the whole twin making thing.
Q: Can they read each other’s minds?
The last question, by far, is the most irritating, which is why I am writing this. During my research for this post, I came across a study by Adrian Parker titled “A Ganzfeld Study Using Identical Twins”, published in the “Journal of the Society for Psychical Research”. Just a cursory glance at the article, the journal, or the society’s website would make any skeptic or scientist want to pull out their hair, but I use it because even the pseudo-scientists had to admit they couldn’t find what they were looking for: identical twins with telepathic powers. From the abstract:
The aim of this study was to maximise psi performance in the Real-Time Digital Ganzfeld (RTDG) by using as participants a group of identical twins who reported psi-related experiences. Fourteen pairs of identical twins were selected using a questionnaire interview based on the Sheep-Goat Scale. The twins in the roles of receiver and sender took part in a two-session RTDG procedure. The results of this initial study gave a 36% hit rate, with a small-to-medium effect size, which was the rate generally expected for Ganzfeld studies with selected participants. The dramatic success rate that might be expected to occur amongst identical twins was not found in this sample.
They must have been so disappointed. Magical thinking strikes out again. Let’s see what they concluded:
Although the pairs of twins tested here were specifically selected from an original pool of more than 50 pairs with a view to finding those who might perform highly successfully on the psi-task, it became obvious during the interviews that none of our participants had had really striking and recurrent ESP experiences … the kind of dramatic experiences that are often reported in the spontaneous literature (e.g. of being aware of the other twin’s crisis situation) were found to be extremely rare; only two members of the test group reported that this had happened to them. Likewise, shared pain, shared dreams, and coincidental happenings were rarely reported. The most commonly reported anomalous experiences were the more mundane ones of choosing similar clothes or making similar behavioural choices …Interestingly, in seeking examples of awareness of the other twin’s crisis and pain experiences, nearly all the participants commented that they had never actually had the misfortune of experiencing any serious accident or life-threatening crisis. It might then just be the case that the secure life of Swedish society may have virtually eliminated the occurrence of such experiences. Even the rarity of telepathic experiences may be a result of modern society: many twins reported being constantly in touch with each other during the day by mobile telephone, and some of them joked that there was no need for telepathy.
I love their creative use of special pleading: why use “psi” when they can just call each other instead? Also, apparently Swedes don’t have serious accidents or life-threatening crises. While it is not surprising that they would make excuses as to why they did not achieve the results they wanted, these are extraordinary assumptions.
Perhaps my favorite part from the paper was a quote they used from someone that obviously disagreed with the concept of telepathic powers in twins:
Although it is unclear as to what data J. B. Rhine based his opinion on, he wrote: “they [twins] are not more outstanding than similar cases involving a mother and daughter, a young couple in love, or other close relationships of affection and friendship” (quoted in Scheinfeld, 1967, p. 232).
I agree with J.B. on this one. I have a very close connection with Rob (my husband) that no one else on Earth can claim to have with him. Why? It’s because I know him more than anyone. It’s the same with my girls. As parents, we sometimes know what they’ll do before they do it, astonishing them time and time again with our “psychic abilities”. I can tell when Zoë, Jude, Scout, or Briar is lying, troubled by a problem, or about to explode with excitement. All of these instincts come from being their mother.
It comes down to empathy, and who do we empathize most with? Those closest to us. Without learning these cues, we’d hurt the ones we love and might risk losing them. “Reading each other’s minds” is an integral part to having deep and understanding relationships.
Keep a look-out for “Part 2” in this photography series. It will be out next Tuesday!