It’s something we’ve all heard (and swiftly dismissed) before, but those trouble-making scientists have once again waded in to confirm that, yes, women seek romantic partners who look a bit like their brothers.
That’s men who look like their brothers, rather than their actual brothers. Apologies if Cersei and Jaime had you thinking this was going to be a very different story indeed. They just sprang to mind. Sorry.
Anyway, a new study from the Evolution and Human Behaviour journal asked volunteers (yep, women volunteered for this) to send in photos of their lovers and their brothers. The researchers added these to pictures of public figures or celebrities, again coupled with pictures of their partners and male siblings.
The participants were asked to match the men by facial similarity, not knowing that they had any relationship to one another. They were given a sheet of paper which on one side had a photo of a woman’s brother, and on the other pictures of four more men. One of them was the woman’s partner, the other three randomly selected. They had to decide which men looked the most similar, and then work backwards.
You know where this is going. Science has well and truly thrown a fucking great cat among a swarm of pigeons at your next now-even-more-awkward family get-together. The researchers found “clear evidence for perceptual similarity in facial photographs of a woman’s partner and her brother”. If there was a presumed one in four likelihood that the participants would match a partner as the most similar, they actually picked them out 27% of the time, which is slightly - but importantly – above chance.
Although it would be a lot more interesting to say that your sister is taking a photo of you to every bar and holding it in front of her as she scans the horizon, it wasn’t anything like a universal finding.
"One important point is that you shouldn't expect to be able to pick a partner simply based on the appearance of a sibling!” said lead researcher Tamsin Saxton, in an interview with Broadly. “Not all women had partners that looked like their brothers.”
Not that that’s going to stop anyone reading this immediately logging onto their partner’s brother’s Facebook for reassurance. It might be about to get weird.