Most of the articles to prove this I can find quote a 1987 study which found

Couples who originally bore no particular resemblance to each other when first married had, after 25 years of marriage, come to resemble each other, although the resemblance may be subtle

More importantly,

All the couples in the photographs were white, lived in Michigan or Wisconsin and were between 50 and 60 years old at the time of the second picture.

This seems quite a small set to derive this conclusion or is that a standard research pattern?

I ask whether there have been

(a) any recent studies. Perhaps not as this article suggests

(b) covering other ethnic groups such as (example only) Indians/Chinese or other wider audiences

in this area

  • 3
    I'd always heard it was people and their pets. Jun 22, 2011 at 23:50
  • It's the environment, not pets. :) (btw.: I look like my smilie, but a bit older) Jun 23, 2011 at 0:22
  • "This seems quite a small set". Why do you claim that? I'm pretty sure the number of white couples between 50 and 60 in those two states is significantly large. Jul 7, 2022 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


The original study was by a group of researchers lead by Robert Zajonc. (Wikipedia attempts to describe the research, but does a rather ordinary job in this case.)

Convergence in the physical appearance of spouses R. B. Zajonc, Pamela K. Adelmann, Sheila T. Murphy and Paula M. Niedenthal MOTIVATION AND EMOTION Volume 11, Number 4, 335-346, (1987) DOI: 10.1007/BF00992848

They found:

This study attempted to determine whether people who live with each other for a long period of time grow physically similar in their facial features. Photographs of couples when they were first married and 25 years later were judged for physical similarity and for the likelihood that they were married. The results showed that there is indeed an increase in apparent similarity after 25 years of cohabitation.

They also proposed some mechanisms for this, which I didn't find awfully convincing (and neither did some other scientists quoted in your original article.)

Their results is contradicted by :

Shared experiences and the similarity of personalities: A longitudinal study of married couples. Caspi, Avshalom; Herbener, Ellen S.; Ozer, Daniel J. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 62(2), Feb 1992, 281-291. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.62.2.281

They found:

Do spouses become more similar over time? What processes contribute to enduring similarities between them? Using the 20-yr Kelly Longitudinal Study of couples, no support for the hypothesis that couples increasingly resemble each other with time was found. Rather, couples maintain the same degree of similarity across 20 yrs.

I've only found two contradictory studies to choose between, so it is hard to form a firm conclusion, but my interpretation would be that the Zajonc paper was a preliminary investigation in 1987 that suggested there may be a correlation worth following up, and the Caspi paper in 1992 finding that any effect was just an anomaly.

  • ah, so it was contradicted far back in 1992, but yet the maxim persists.
    – JoseK
    Jun 22, 2011 at 13:38
  • complicating things,did either study control other factors such as how well spouses got along, whether they were still happy together after 25 years or just staying together for appearances or due to beliefs against divorce, etc.?
    – Michael
    Aug 7, 2015 at 16:56
  • 1
    @Michael: That seems rather outside the remit of the studies and the question, but feel free to read them for yourself.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 8, 2015 at 0:11
  • 9
    It also seems like they should have asked whether non-couples look more alike at age 50 than at age 25, to whoever they had judging similarity. E.g., if their judges were all 25-year-olds, I bet they were better at noticing differences between 25-year-olds than differences between 50-year-olds. Mar 1, 2017 at 16:06
  • 2
    It seems like this theory could be put to rest with some facial pattern recognition software, rather than relying on personal observation, but I imagine such a study hasn't been done.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 3, 2017 at 16:35

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