‘Wit lies in recognizing the resemblance among things which differ and the difference between things which are alike.’ –Madame de Staël


The widely disseminated convergence in physical appearance hypothesis posits that long-term partners’ facial appearance converges with time due to their shared environment, emotional mimicry, and synchronized activities. Although plausible, this hypothesis is incompatible with empirical findings pertaining to a wide range of other traits—such as personality, intelligence, attitudes, values, and well-being—in which partners show initial similarity but do not converge over time.

We solve this conundrum by reexamining this hypothesis using the facial images of 517 couples taken at the beginning of their marriages and 20 to 69 years later. Using two independent methods of estimating their facial similarity (human judgment and a facial recognition algorithm), we show that while spouses’ faces tend to be similar at the beginning of marriage, they do not converge over time, bringing facial appearance in line with other personal characteristics.

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