(Make-up for discussion group on Thursday, November 3rd)
To answer a central question of "Similarity, Attraction and the Art of Blushing," no, I do not really want to look like the object of my affection 25 years from now!
What an odd phenomenon, this facial similarity in longstanding couples. What purpose does it serve? A key phrase in the article was, "silent empathy." In elaboration on his speculative view involving gradual face-shaping via repetition of mimicry, Dr. Zajonc says, ''Facial mimicry allows a truer empathy because it triggers the same inner state. Couples can understand each other much better when this happens.'' It would be interesting to somehow look at oxytocin, the hormone most popular for bonding, in relation to the process.
I think a science fiction novel could utilize this idea in imaginings of how alien races formed. First bonding, then mimicry, then assimilation... and the production of a hormone resembling oxytocin?
But what about other hormones? I'd like to see a study on which partner changes more toward the other towards similarity. Does person A become more like person B, or vise versa? Why would this be? Sex differences seem like a good place to start; it has been suggested that testosterone reduces empathy.
If this is the case and if Zajonc's view is correct, in a heterosexual couple, would the woman's appearance change more dramatically? The changes may be too subtle to measure. I can't help but think of the famous "urge to merge," the popularized and stereotypical tendency of partners in a lesbian relationship to become quickly and drastically similar one another.