Nancy L. Segal Ph.D.


Twins Reared Apart: Documentary Films and More

New documentary film captures reared apart twins' reunion

Posted Aug 04, 2015

Identical twins, Samantha (Sam) Futerman and Anais Bordier, were born in Busan, South Korea on November 19, 1987. No one knows why, but the twins were separated at birth. Samantha was adopted by a couple living in Verona, New Jersey and Anais was adopted by a couple living in Paris, France. Neither family knew that they were raising part of a twin pair.

A new documentary film—Twinsters—tells the amazing story of how these twenty-five-year-old twins discovered one another. The film opened nation-wide on July 31. I prefer not to give away all the wonderful details, but the discovery happened because of the Internet. Briefly, one of the twins (Sam) is an actress, now living in Los Angeles. She had posted an online video of her theatrical work that was seen by someone who knew the other twin (Anais). The twins’ identical looks were remarkable, as were other details about their lives, so much so that they had to get together.

The idea for a documentary film prompted Sam and her associates to raise money via Kickstarter. The result is the wonderful film that should be seen by all. It captures many important life themes—genetic and environmental influences on development, the importance of family, and the great differences that chance can make in all of our lives.

I invited Sam and Anais to participate in a study at my Twin Studies Center, at California State University, Fullerton. The study was published in the journal PERSONALITY AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES, 70, 97-104 (Segal & Cortez, 2014).  Here are some highlights from the research:

--The twins were placed through different adoption services in South Korea. This is a puzzle that no one has solved.

--Sam was raised with two older brothers, while Anais was raised as an only child.

--The twin’s IQ scores were 17 points apart. This difference exceeds the typical difference of 6 points for identical twins. It was suggested that the higher scoring twin was involved in many more activities which may have allowed her to practice more skills.

--The twins were generally similar in personality traits. Anais score lower in extraversion and self-esteem, possibly because she was raised in a neighborhood with very few Asians and felt somewhat different. Sam was raised in a very supportive family and did not encounter any lack of kindness in her community. 

--The twins’ heights, weight, body mass indices and age at menarche were quite similar, consistent with genetic effects.

Twinsters includes some brief scenes at the university, but mostly focuses on the twins’ discovery and reunion. To my knowledge, this is the first film to truly capture the many details of twins meeting for the first time.

Another documentary film on the same topic is Twin Sisters, about twins raised separately in Norway and the United States. The twins, young girls from China, are shown at reunion and during a subsequent visit to Norway. The difference in their life histories is extraordinary, making for a blend of great interest and great science. These twins are part of my ongoing study of Chinese twins raised apart and together. Both films have won awards at film festivals.

There is one more recent story that deserves attention and that concerns two sets of switched identical male twins in Bogotá, Colombia. One twin in each pair was inadvertently exchanged with one twin in another pair, yielding duplicates of the same unrelated set—what I call virtual twins. Virtual twins are same-age unrelated children raised together from birth.  They replicate twinship, but without the genetic link. I study them in order to get a pure estimates of environmental influence on behavioral traits. Most virtual twins know they are unrelated, but the small subset of switched twins are unaware of their real relationship to one another—they simply assume they are fraternal twins.

I visited Bogotá for about ten days with a research colleague (Yesika Montoya), a writer and photography team from the New York Times Magazine. A July 12, 2015 article about our experiences is available at: More research findings about these four  brothers are forthcoming--and more can be discovered at my web site:

About the Author

Nancy L. Segal, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology and the Director of the Twin Studies Center, at California State University, Fullerton.

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