March 24, 2011 -- Want to know the secret behind human attraction? Finding a partner who looks just like you.
Or at least that's the theory behind FindYourFaceMate.com, a dating site launched this month by New Yorker Christina Bloom.
Once you upload your picture, the site uses facial recognition technology to zoom in on nine points of your face -- your eyes, ears, nose, chin, as well as the corners and center of your mouth -- to find you a match. When it spots "face mates," it alerts the pair.
"If you look at most couples, you see that these facial features are very similar," Bloom said. "I really believe that getting this theory out there will help people."
The would-be matchmaker said her notion that people are more attracted to those that look like them came from personal experience and years of observation.
About 20 years ago, she said, she started dating her own male doppelgänger and said she felt an unparalleled attraction.
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"I had such a strong attraction to him and it was like nothing I had ever experienced before," she said. "Our facial features were very similar and we were told that we looked like brother and sister everywhere we went. Then I started noticing couples everywhere I went."
She noticed the phenomenon among friends and family, as well Hollywood stars, like Iman and David Bowie, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Heidi Klum and Seal and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
Bloom wrote a small gift book on the theory and later launched a blog, but about a year and a half ago she decided to get serious about putting her theory to work.
"I knew. I knew in my gut that there was something going on here," she said. "I realized that the only way I'd get this out there was to create a dating website."
The site, which is powered by Face.com's facial recognition technology, has attracted about 8,000 people. For testing out the service in its early days, those users get to take part for free. But once the site reaches a critical mass, Bloom said she'll likely charge a fee similar to that of other dating sites.
In General Attraction, People Are Drawn to Those Who Look Like Them
Because the user base is just growing, Bloom said they haven't yet used the engine to match couples. But when it has amassed enough users, it will use Face.com's biometric face recognition technology to look at key points on the users' faces and calculate the distances between them. When it finds similar proportions, the site will flag it as a match.
"It's not like an exact match. It's more about the shape and the points in the face," she said. "I see it easily, but when there's a little bit of weight involved, it's a little more difficult to see. When a man's hairline is a little higher it's difficult to see. The coloring throws people off."
Bloom said she recognizes that compatibility and similar values are also key components to finding long-lasting love, but said she hopes her site can help people get a jumpstart.
But does science actually support the theory of "face mate" attraction?
Couples Tend to Be of Similar Attractiveness
Kerri Johnson, an assistant psychology professor at UCLA, said she wasn't aware of recent research that specifically supports Find Your Face Mate's theory, but said, "There is evidence that general liking improves when people look like you."
For example, she said, a 2008 Stanford University study found that on-the-fence voters were unconsciously swayed by candidates who looked more like them. The study morphed photos of the participants and political candidates and, while the test subjects didn't consciously detect the blended images, they consistently favored the ones that most resembled themselves.
In romantic relationships, Johnson said, research has shown that pairs tend to be of similar attractiveness.
"There's a long-standing pattern where a person's own level of attractiveness is matched in their partner," she said.
Being of equal attractiveness doesn't necessarily mean that they have similar facial features, but it could lead to common facial characteristics, such as facial symmetry and youthful qualities, Johnson said.
"Across dimensions, people who are similar tend to be attracted to each other," she said. "'Birds of a feather flock together' characterizes most aspects of interpersonal attraction."
Couple May Start to Resemble Each Other Over Time
Still, Andrew Trees, author of "Decoding Love: Why It Takes Twelve Frogs to Find a Prince, and Other Revelations from the Science of Attraction," said he was dubious about a website that claimed to match look-alikes.
While it may be true that many couples resemble each other, it's not necessarily the case that they were initially attracted to their doppelgangers. Overtime, they may mirror each others' expressions and share habits that contribute to appearance, Trees said.
"One researcher did discover that as couples are together for a long time, their faces do start to look more alike," he said.
Trees also said researchers have found that people are drawn to those that look like them because the faces look familiar. For example, one study found that if you flash the same face to someone several times, that person will find the face to be increasingly attractive.
"If you see a face that's like your own, that's obviously going to be very familiar and there's something appealing about that," he said. "It's not that I question there might be some attraction there, I just don't know if there's an underlying scientific basis to say those people are compatible."