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…

Psychic twins? They sure look the part.
Photo by Gigi Chickee


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.

Twin powers ACTIVATE!
Photo by Gigi Chickee

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.


Identical, but individual
Photo by Gigi Chickee

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?

A:  (sigh)


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.

Twins attempting to exchange positive psychic energies via cranial osmosis.
Photo by Gigi Chickee

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.

They love, cherish, and adore each other. Who needs psychic powers to see that?
Photo by Gigi Chickee

Keep a look-out for “Part 2” in this photography series. It will be out next Tuesday!



Gigi Chickee

All photos are taken by me, Gigi Chickee, unless otherwise noted. Photography Correspondent here at Mad Art Lab. Wife to my gorgeous husband, Rob. Mother to my four girls. Proud Secular Homeschooler. Photographer when the occasion arises. Seamstress in training. Skeptic always. Follow me and my musings on Twitter: @gigichickee

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  1. Thank you! As a fraternal twin I used to have to deal with a lot of stupid questions. (Now I’m hardly ever around my brother, so it doesn’t come up very often.)

    My brother and I aren’t even close, so the debunking starts right away for me. I think being close in age and having the personalities that we do made us more competitive, rather than chummy.

    Love the photos. =)

  2. How wonderful to get feedback on my post from a twin! Thank you, Anne. My twins are still young and I have to do the debunking for them, but I hope to give them the tools to be ready to answer the barrage of questions heading their way as they get older.

  3. My mother and my aunt are fraternal twins. They are so, SO different. And I’ve been told, my whole life, that “twins skip generations in our family *winkwink*”.
    If that’s true, then I’m going to have to figure out how to become some sort of Egg Whisperer while my wife is sleeping or something. #creepy

  4. I found that the best response is to have a very incredulous expression on your face, as in, “You honestly believe that?”

    The most common question I had to deal with was actually, “So, are you identical?” Turns out a lot of people don’t actually know what fraternal twins are, or understand that opposite gender twins can’t possible be identical. (Admittedly, most of the people who asked this question were childhood peers, but I was happy to educated them!)

  5. Brian, that’s funny that you were told twins skip generations in your family because your genes (since you are a male) have nothing to do with whether or not you’ll be having twins. It’s your wife that is the one that will be dropping the eggs. If it doesn’t run in her family, the odds of you having twins isn’t very likely.

    Anne, that doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve answered some of the most absurd questions about my twins. On a couple of occasions complete strangers have asked me if I had artificial insemination. One girl, who was probably about 16 or 17, said she was going to have “that salmonation” done so she could have twins. ::shivers::

  6. Thanks for being the voice of reason! I’m a fraternal twin, and my brother and I get a lot of knuckleheaded questions too, including people asking us whether we’re identical–don’t get me started. We are incredibly close and have incredibly similar tastes and interests, but hey, we’re siblings of the same age. So few people get that. *sigh* indeed.

  7. Regarding cryptophasia, I definitely see where people get the (misguided) idea. Seeing the twins play together, especially a year or two ago when their speech was still in early development, was a truly interesting experience. It was a babbling free-association chatter, in stereo. I could tell that their communication filters were turned off as they bounced words, sounds, and ideas off each other in a constant stream of consciousness. They would grab a word from a nearby conversation and unthinkingly mix it in with their chatter, which was always funny.

  8. @Judy: That’s so great to hear! Seriously, it’s making my heart EXTREMELY happy to see that twins are positively responding to this post. Being asked if you’re identical is hilarious. I don’t even think people stop to realize what they are asking.

    @Rob: They still do that! They actually did that in school today. It was so funny. I was doing Jude’s spelling test with her. Briar and Scout were playing store right by us. I told Jude her next spelling word was “board”, and without skipping a beat in their conversation, Scout said, “I am bored of shopping.” in her character’s voice and kept right on chatting. It is so funny how they just absorb everything around them, even when you don’t think they’re paying attention one bit. She even made it fit into their conversation, but used it’s homophone twin.

  9. Love the post! I am an identical twin and we get asked this stuff all the time. Our response to “Are you guys psychic?” is that we both say “Yes!” and one of us says “What am I thinking?” The other one whispers to our audience “spoon”, and sure enough, that’s it! Amazing psychic powers! Where’s my million $?

    Our other favorite trick is to come up behind someone at a party on different sides of their head and start speaking “in stereo”. Hilarity ensues.

    We do have a verbal shorthand and can usually register a correct opinion for the other, but anyone who knows someone else all their life can do a similar thing.

    I think the most common question we get asked is whether we ever switched classes, and later jobs, since we look a *lot* alike. To which I always wonder, why would that be fun? Seems like i’d be walking into an environment with no situational knowledge… bleh.

    The ONE time when our ability to pass for each other is super is in taking uncomfortable phone calls, txts, emails, etc. Since we can “do” each other’s voices and writing styles, when my twin gets a call or message from someone they hate, I can take it instead, be reasonably polite and not escalate the situation. Be warned, not even our parents can tell.

  10. cthandhs, thanks for the response! It is wonderful to hear from an identical twin. Since my girls are only five, they can’t really answer all the questions themselves, so I get asked them. Since I’ve accrued a lot of twin knowledge over the last five years, I thought I’d share 🙂

    I won’t deny that my twins have a special connection, but it’s not like they don’t have their own thoughts and feelings. Back in my middle and high school days, I was very close to my sister who is 2 years older than me and we could “read” each other’s minds all the time. We knew each other extremely well. People who are close, especially when their young, create secret signals and learn the other’s body language. It even happens with best friends who we’re not related to, and of course, our spouses. You guys get to have a little extra fun with it, though, because you look/sound alike and can really take it to a new level 😉

    I was curious if you’ve read my “Part 2: Divergent Duo” on twins. It’s about how identical twins actively try to differentiate themselves and how dissimilar they truly can be. I’d be interested in your feedback. Here’s the link:

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