There are many myths about twins—hence, the title of my new book, TWIN MYTHCONCEPTIONS: FALSE BELIEFS, FABLES, AND FACTS ABOUT TWINS (2017, Elsevier). In the book, I include about 70 myth conceptions, rate their truthfulness, provide a quick answer, followed by a longer, more detailed explanation. One of the more frequent mythconceptions is whether twins can read each other's minds.
Do twins read each other’s minds?
I address this frequently asked question in the chapter, “Mind-Readers?: Twin Telepathy, Intelligence, and Elite Performance.” I also deal with the nature of twins’ intelligence and how often twins are found at elite levels of performance across different fields.
When it comes to identical twins, the most controversial and contentious topic of all has to be extrasensory perception. Most journalists who interview me tend to raise this question because they know it is on the minds of many of their readers. My review of the research in this area, however, demonstrates that this behavior does not exist between twins—or anyone else.
Of course, many identical twins do show “ESP-like” behaviors, such as independently choosing the same outfit, answering test questions exactly the same way, and even finishing each other’s sentences. However, I believe that there are better ways to explain identical twins’ similar choices and social connections. It has to do with their identical genes, which predispose them to like the same people, places, and events.
A related topic is cheating—that is, whether identical twins who perform alike are necessarily guilty of dishonest behavior. I have witnessed the shame, disappointment, and anger of twins and their families when twins are wrongly accused of cheating. I have even assisted attorneys who are sometimes called in to defend twins against school administrators and university officials. Identical twins are highly matched in their abilities, so it makes sense that they would answer questions in the same way, or even draft essays along very similar lines. I do advise twins who go to school together to always sit apart for exams so they can never be accused of cheating.
A second debate concerns whether or not twins, on average, are below non-twins in intelligence, and whether they are underrepresented among elite performers. Recent work dispels the myth that twins generally score below non-twins on ability tests. I also believe that twins seem to be underrepresented at elite levels of performance partly because the people doing these surveys do not realize who is, and who is not, a twin!
Segal, N.L. (2017). Twin Mythconceptions: False Beliefs, Fables, and Facts About Twins. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.