Monday, April 06, 2009

Identical twins: Identical genes does not mean identical minds

Jonah Leher, at Frontal Cortex, briefly profiles identical twins who are poets with vastly different styles:
... the Dickman twins, who were raised together and have been close their entire lives, seem to offer a parallel experiment. One way of looking at their work - Michael's Dickinsonian severity, and Matthew's Whitmanesque expansiveness - is as an illustration of the distinctiveness of imagination, even in two people who are as alike as two people can be.
Yes indeed.

I wish some authors (no reference to Lehrer) would get over the idea that we should expect identical twins to have similar personalities. For one thing, one usually becomes the dominant twin and the other the recessive one. That changes personality dramatically, and I imagine that writing style might differ as a result.

Another possible influence on personality is whether twins are socially rewarded for acting similar (even when they don't feel similar). When I was a child in the 1950s, some parents liked to dress identical twins identically. They thought that was really cute. Wiser heads condemned the practice, of course, and - from what I can see - it has lost cultural favour, at least in my part of Toronto.

Also, in some schools, identical twins might be assigned to different classrooms rather than side by side - on the grounds that language and social skills develop faster. In that case, the twins could be experiencing very different early environments as well. (That was done when I was a child, perhaps as a reaction to the parents who thought that dressing identicals exactly alike was really cute.)

See also: Intelligence: How much is heredity and how much is environment?

Once again: How much brain do you need?

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose