This week continues the discussion from last week about my twins as a photography subject, but covers a different aspect. I figure, if an embryo can be split into two, so can my one of my posts. The first post (check it out here if you haven’t read it) covered some of the common misconceptions people have about twins, but I mostly focused my attention on twins’ so-called psychic abilities. This week I am going to cover something that most people don’t think of when they think about identical twins: how different they can be and how that difference occurs with a purpose.
First, I’d like to mention that there are physical differences between Briar and Scout despite their identical DNA. For example, Briar needs glasses and Scout doesn’t. When they were younger, Scout had a small problem with her knee that lead to her walking later than Briar did. Briar has always been about an inch taller than Scout. Both of them have a degree of underbite, but Scout’s is more pronounced. Once you really get to know them you can tell them apart by looking at their face shape and eye shape, which are slightly different. While their physical differences are interesting, they obviously aren’t based on conscious decisions to differentiate, so today we’re going to concentrate on their personalities and see how dissimilar they truly are.
The full realization of the fact that Briar and Scout are actively pursuing differences in their personalities only came into sharp focus (photography pun) as I was writing my last post. Briar and Scout were playing together, dancing in the living room, pretending it was a stage, and dressed in improvised costumes. Briar chose to go with a clown theme, while Scout wanted to be a ballerina. All of this was occurring just as I was reading an article in the Enneagram Journal by Betsy Maxon and David N. Daniels discussing how identical twins are decidedly different, titled “Personality Differentiation of Identical Twins Reared Together”. In the study, they gave identical twins personality tests which produced some interesting results:
The personality structure of 36 pairs of identical twins reared together was determined using The Essential Enneagram Test. Contrary to expectation, only 2 of the 36 pairs had the same personality type as each other (5.5%), fewer than in the control group (16.8%)(p=0.089) … We hypothesize that these findings reflect both a strong genetic influence and an environmentally based “drive” for differentiation between identical twins reared together.
Rob and I have always encouraged Briar and Scout’s individuality, but apparently they would have figured this out on their own. At what point do twins really begin to form distinct personalities? In utero! Even in the womb, twins show signs of individuality. To quote the article:
Piontelli (1992) has published a psychoanalytic study of her observations of eleven fetuses (three singletons and four sets of twins) in the womb using ultrasound scans followed by observing their development in the home up to the age of four years … it was possible to note clear individual temperament differences between the two members of the couple from the early stages. Some showed no reaction to being punched and kicked. Others reacted by withdrawing or by actually seeming to seek contact … Each couple, in fact, from the early stages seemed to have its particular mode of relating, which continued throughout pregnancy and could still be noted in post-natal life.
When I was pregnant with Briar and Scout, we were terrified that they would be so utterly indistinguishable from each other that we would confuse them. We decided to assign them each a color. Scout’s color was purple and Briar’s was pink. After they were born, we painted the toenails on their big toes with their assigned color. We kept the nails painted for at least a year (just for good measure). On many occasions, especially when they were tiny, we had to refer to their toes in order to be sure of which twin was which. When they were younger we mostly dressed them in their assigned pink and purple, or colors similar, and today Briar still prefers pink while Scout prefers purple. For a brief period around age two, their color preferences swapped, but at no point did they like the same color at the same time.
Polar shifts in their personalities were so common in their first few years of life that we had a name for it: “soul swap”. If one twin was particularly fussy for a few days, the other would be an angel, but eventually they would switch. If one liked a certain food, the other couldn’t stand it, but they’d soon switch. If one always wanted their hair in pigtails, the other would want their hair down, but inevitably they’d switch. Whether they realized it or not, they were being different on purpose. This is explained in the article’s conclusion:
Once the differences are noticed, the twins are apt to be treated differently, reinforcing and strengthening their differences. A second factor is the great drive of each individual to have a recognizably separate self-image. In this study participants often mentioned being their own person. This “drive” to individuate is a finding among siblings in general…This tendency to individuate is remarkably strong in identical twins who are seen as similar and often treated as similar. Driven to not be the same type, they remain attached through related or connected types.
The very fact that they are identical in the first place, leads to them wanting to differentiate themselves from their identical sibling. Briar and Scout each have own interests and obsessions. Briar is extremely interested human physiology and dinosaurs. She wants to be a surgeon/paleontologist. Scout, on the other hand, loves dancing and outer space. She wants to be a ballerina/astronomer. (My husband would like me to note that Briar and Scout are, as it’s know in geek culture, “multiclassing“.)
With Briar and Scout trying to carve out their own paths, I’ve actually been able reap the rewards as a parent and a teacher. If one twin refuses to do something, the other twin will see that I’m not happy and decide she’ll please me by doing what I’m asking. Recently, Briar announced she hated broccoli and almost immediately Scout requested loads of it to be put on her plate. She even finished off all of the broccoli that was leftover in the bowl after dinner was over. On the other hand, Scout was so disgusted with the sight of the chicken I made last night that she declared she didn’t even want to look at it. Soon after Scout made that proclamation, Briar said she wanted some of the chicken to be put on her plate. After tasting it, she stated that it was the best she ever had. Their competitiveness even pushes them to give it all they’ve got when we do school because they want to be noticed for their achievements as individuals.
The twins are sure to correct us when we accidentally call them by the other’s name. This happens to all parents, and we are just as likely to yell for Jude when we really mean Zoë, but the twins make it a point to let you to know who they are and that you incorrectly called them by their twin’s name.
This is Scout Finch:
This is Briar Rose:
Most of the attention twins receive is because they are twins. It’s not something they achieved personally. It just happened. Choosing separate paths gives them distinctiveness outside of the twin bubble. They are individuals who happen to be twins.
One last thing, if you just can’t get enough twins and their “twindividuality”, check out this article that interviews 5 sets of identical twins specifically about how different they are from each other.
I’m getting ready to start an exciting photography project. Be sure to come back to Mad Art Lab next Tuesday and see what sort of photography mischief I get into.