We’ve all heard myths about twins reading each other’s minds, finishing each other’s sentences, even experiencing the same dreams. Although these may seem like odd coincidences, an overwhelming number of twins report being able to communicate with their twin telepathically whether this includes an uncanny ability to say the same thing or being able to sense what the other is feeling. After reading an article in which twins claim to have experienced similar instances, I decided to research farther into the possibility of twin telepathy.
Although I have been able to find hundreds of examples of twins claiming they felt this sort of connection, I’ve learned that the amount of laboratory experimentation done on the subject is sparse. What I came across and found interesting was a video posted by ABC News about a Swedish psychologist who ran an experiment in 2011 with four sets of twins randomly selected from a pool of about 100. The basis of the experiment involves monitoring the pulse, respiration, and blood pressure of twins who are separated and experiencing different things using a polygraph. One is put into a relaxed state and receives a series of shocks such as being submersed in ice water or hearing the sound of a dish being broken. The other is placed in a separate room and hooked up to a polygraph as well. To measure the results, the signs were timed and recorded simultaneously in case the control twin experienced any notable changes while the other twin was surprised. According to Dr. Adrian Parker’s hypothesis, if twin telepathy exists, then the twin experiencing the shocks should be able to communicate with the other telepathically so that he/she knows that he is feeling something out of the ordinary.
Parker was extremely particular in his experiment and his analysis of the results, calculating that “3 correct placements would be expected by chance.” According to Parker, his results “showed double the number of expected hits.” In some instances during the experiment, the twin not receiving the shocks experienced slightly deeper breaths and/or an increased blood pressure at the same time that his or her twin was agitated. While these signs could be due to a confounding third variable, the data is consistent with the hypothesis. And although this one experiment does not qualify as proof that twin telepathy exists, Parker believes that his data could inspire researchers to take this idea to the laboratory again.
As it turns out, Parker’s experiment was a recreation of one done on a television show in 2003. Researcher Guy Lyon Playfair conducted an “informal” experiment with twins Richard and Damien Powles. Similarly, the two were placed in different studies connected to polygraphs, completely cut off from one another, while one experienced a series of fear-related surprises. Richard first submerged his hand in a bucket of ice-water, just as Parker replicated. He then opened a present and rather then finding a pleasant surprise, was fear-stricken as a realistic looking snake jumped out at him. During both of those instances, there was an obvious jump in Damien’s pulse as if he was experiencing the shocks himself.
Contrary to Parker’s confidence in his technique, Playfair admitted that the experiments were done informally and lacked “strict scientific protocols.” Regardless, the results were uncanny and seemed to support the hypothesis that one twin can feel for another even when only one is experiencing something. After researching this topic and familiarizing myself with these two experiments, I was disappointed that I struggled to find other ways that scientists have tested the idea of twin telepathy. While the data seemed consistent with the hypothesis being tested, it still lacks a scientific explanation and as we know, supernatural forces cannot explain scientific questions. From my research I have developed this question: is twin telepathy linked to an emotion? In both of these experiments, the body only showed signs of change on the polygraph when the experimental twin was either frightened or surprised. If anyone is interested in this subject and can find data to support or refute this, make sure to comment!
- “The Twin Experiment.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 30 June 2011. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/twin-experiment-13963283>.
- Wagner, Stephen. “Twin Telepathy: Best Evidence.” Twins Home. N.p., 20 May 2013. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http%3A%2F%2Fen.suntwins.com%2FGlobal%2F2013%2F0520%2F7477.html>.