Twin Telepathy: Fact Or Fiction?

Twins separated at birth making remarkably similar career choices or marrying similar people; twins who die of the same problems, miles apart at around the same time; twins who feel a pain in the same location of their leg as their twin who has had a grievous injury that has caused them to lose a leg – what’s your favorite twin story?

Twins are supposed to have an indelible connection that lasts a lifetime. That sixth sense which tells one twin when something’s not right with the other, the “gut feeling” that causes one to call the other out of the blue only to find they are in distress – instances of “twin telepathy” are many! But how much of this is fact, how much fiction, and how much just wishful thinking? Telepathy or mind reading may seem like the stuff of fantasy, but some researchers have devoted their life’s work to understanding whether a phenomenon like telepathy is even possible. Here’s a look at the evidence so far.

What Is Twin Telepathy?

The psychic connection that is believed to connect identical

twins has been dubbed “twin telepathy.” According to last available data from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 30 births in the country was a twin. That’s more twins per birth than a few decades ago, and this trend is only rising. This makes the study of twin telepathy even more important today, as multiple births become increasingly common as a result of more cases of assisted reproduction.1 So let’s weigh up the evidence and see how things stand.

Lives Full Of Exceptional Experiences

One study of twins administered an Exceptional Experiences Questionnaire to all participants. This was used to record how often each pair of twins experienced what they felt was telepathy or “remarkable coincidences”, or even shared dreams. As many as 60 percent of the twins in the study said they had telepathic experiences. 11 percent said they had such telepathic experiences frequently. These typically occurred when they were awake and were related to concerns about the

safety, health, and welfare of their twin. In addition, identical twins in the study reported a greater degree of connectedness, with the researchers suggesting that they were also more likely to have telepathic experiences.2

In a report that reviews evidence on extrasensory perception (ESP) and thought accordance, one study in particular is of interest. Twins were separately given a drawing test, a numbers test, and a pictures test. When asked to write down a number between 1 and 10 that their twin had thought of, the twins showed greater thought accordance than siblings (17 percent for twins versus 5 percent for siblings). To test for ESP, the first twin was made to pick a number using random number tables (instead of self-selecting) and asked to concentrate on it, thus using ESP to help the other twin guess the number. Again, twins performed better than siblings (12 percent versus 5 percent).

In the drawing test, twins had to draw whatever came to mind and significantly outperformed siblings (21 percent hits compared to 8 percent). In the picture test, one twin had to pick one photo to concentrate on from each of four sets of four pictures. Twins scored 42 percent compared to 21 percent for siblings. While the results were exciting, the study only involved a small group of twin and sibling pairs. But, although the conclusions may be of limited applicability from a scientific perspective, the study has laid the ground for future study.3

Could Embryonic History Matter?

One area of particular interest – due to its measurable aspects – is the physiological connectedness of twins. A study of four sets of twins who claimed to have experienced a “connection” or some form of twin telepathy revealed interesting results. In the test, one of each pair of twins was subjected at random intervals to surprise stimuli as well as mild shock. At the same

time, the second twin’s blood pressure, electrodermal activity, body movements, and breathing were tracked. A polygraph specialist observed the physiological data and recorded any deviation from a relaxed state, giving his timed estimates of when a deviation from the norm occurred (indicative of a stimulus at that point). Results did not indicate a significant synchronized response, barring the case of one set of twins who also shared the same amniotic bag and placenta pre-birth. So while the researchers didn’t see connectedness across twins, they concluded that it was worth exploring twins with a greater shared embryonic history.4

This same methodology was used with some variations in two separate studies referred to as the Copenhagen and London Studies. They concluded that for identical twins who reported a high frequency of exceptional experiences, one of four pairs were likely to give results that were significant under test


Just Thinking Alike?

Twins may respond similarly to the same questions or make the same choices. While some put this down to ESP or twin telepathy, others feel the explanation could be simpler. With twins experiencing so much of a shared upbringing, and often spending so much of their time together, it follows that they might make the same basic choices due to their shared history. As the Washington State Twin Registry explains, most evidence is still highly anecdotal and is not scientifically valid. What they suggest instead is that this “telepathy” between identical twins is more a result of a very deep emotional bond. This is not unlike what spouses who’ve been together for years, or siblings who are very close, or even fraternal twins experience. A combination of genes and environmental factors will likely manifest as similar preferences or instincts, causing them to act or react similarly at the same time to

a particular stimulus.6

A Case Of Selection Bias

To get a perspective on the subject, looking at the number of twins versus the number of stories of telepathy can help. There are millions of twins around the world, yet just a few reported, albeit sensational, stories of uncanny incidents that can only be explained by “twin telepathy.” The argument against twin telepathy says that similar patterns might well exist between siblings as well, but since they make less exciting headlines they seldom hit the news. The bottom line? While the idea of twin telepathy is exciting, it may not really hold water yet due to a lack of adequate scientific evidence. However, some studies have offered a glimmer of possibility in the area, and if further strides are made, we may some day have a better understanding of just how deep that twin connection runs.