Are "lookalikes" genetically related??

George Hammond kbonelli at
Tue Jul 7 02:59:37 EST 1998

Posted from George Hammond  July 7, 1998
email:  ghammond34 at


     This posting contains a question about genetics in
Psychology, but let me begin it with an anecdote.
     I was sitting in an after hours restaurant not long ago here
in Hyannis MA when an unusual man walked in and took a seat at
the counter.  What was unusual about him is that he looked
EXACTLY like Raymond B. Cattell.  Same eyes, hair, nose, build,
cranial structure, mouth, teeth, expression.. right down to the
trim of his beard.. an absolute dead ringer for R.B. Cattell at
about age 55 (Cattell is presently 90).  I was stunned and
mystified of course as I watched and listened to him since
Cattell is kind of a singular character in appearance.  He didn't
know about this of course since few people outside of Psychology
have ever heard of Cattell or know what he looks like (Cattell
belongs to the "Vincent Price" typology sector of the upper
middle class British family tree if you've never seen a picture
of him).  This guy was however obviously a misfit unfortunately
born into lifelong financial hardship; as I overheard him say
that he was a welder and lived in a $75 dollar a week room in
Harwich and also worked in a leather shop because he "knew how to
     At any rate, this encounter with Ray Cattell got me to
thinking about genetics and family resemblance.  The chances of
this guy being related to Cattell are one in a million, since he
went to Harwich high school I found out... that's not the
explanation of why he looks like Cattell.  I mean; obviously this
guy looked more like Cattell than any of Cattell's kids (Cattell
has been married 5 times and has numerous kids).  I mean consider
how little John F. Kennedy Jr. looks like John F. Kennedy... I
practically look more like JFK than he does..!
     So here's the genetic question:  If children are 50%
genetically identical to their parents; but there are people that
(far) more closely resemble them than their children, does this
mean that some "lookalike" stranger is MORE CLOSELY GENETICALLY
RELATED to you than your own children..?  Take for instance the
20 winners in an Elvis Presley look alike contest... every one of
them looks more like Elvis than any of his relatives, parents or
children.  Does this mean that while the DNA-DNA correlation
coefficient between Elvis and his parents or kids is exactly .5..
that it may actually be .6 or .7 or .8 between him and one of
these "lookalikes"..  I find that ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
     This is amazing, for one thing, because what it means is
that if you die "childless" as many people do.. that actually you
have "genetic survivors" out there that are related to you EVEN
BEEN...!!  Good Lord... is this true?  What about all that talk
about the "end of the family line" if you don't have any kids..
according to this analysis such a thing is impossible...?
     Now, another question.  Isn't this a case of "convergent
heredity".  I mean, if A marries B and has a child, .5(A+B), and
then marries C and has a child, .5(A+C), then if the two kids get
married.. isn't it possible that they could have a .5(A+A) kid
which would then be an identical CLONE of A ...!!!  Isn't this
essentially how you get 20 Elvis lookalikes in North America..
none of whom are related..!
     If anyone on this list knows ANYTHING about genetics, I would
appreciate an answer to the question of whether a "lookalike"
stranger can possibly be "more genetically related to you than
your actual family members"; by actual DNA comparison.  This
question obviously has consequences for Psychology; particularly
my psychology.
     George Hammond

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