Familiar Face – Don’t I know You?

A familiar face in the crowd is something we look for and instantly makes us feel more relaxed and at home (– unless it is someone we don’t want to meet because, well perhaps we shouldn’t ask.)

So if we see someone who looks like us, then we feel good about that as we see someone familiar who is probably related as our doppelgangers are few and far between. Kinship is a good thing and we can obviously trust our kin  to do the right thing by us.

That was the starting point of Giang et al who published their study in last weeks Public Library of Science (1). They took 58 men and women in their early 20’s as their subjects to play with themselves (unwittingly of course). They game was on.

Specifically it was a social cooperation game in which you and the other player invested money, only small sums, so the players didn’t have to be one percenters. If the partner invested the same amount, you did well, but if they cheated and only said they would and didn’t, you lost money.

In past published experiments, players tended to invest more money when the image of the other player looked like a likeable person. Now what’s not to liked about a possible family member? Well, we’ll see.

The experiment started with photographs of the participants and then these were morphed a little to look like someone different, but not totally. Hence you would be playing with yourself, but not quite yourself, more a familiar face.

When all the results came in, shock horror but not the expected outcome. What happened was that the players didn’t trust themselves (well familiar face person) any more that someone different. Of, course not everybody would look “likeable” after morphing, but not trusting people that could look like a possible sibling? Well who’d have thought it.

Sibling rivalry seems to be alive and well amongst the students of Heinrich Heine U in Düsseldorf.

  1. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0047809

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