It’s quite a long article but very well done, particularly from the science point of view.
Twins expert says behavior mostly affected by genes
1 Twin sisters, Ann Hunt, left, of Aldershot, England, and Liz Hamel, of Albany, Ore., 78, reunite in Fullerton for the first time since 1936. Their meeting was arranged by Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton.
2 A television crew from the BBC, left, records the reunion at the Fullerton Marriott of twin sisters Ann Hunt and Liz Hamel, both 78. Pictured, from left, are Samantha Stacey, her mother Ann Hunt, Liz Hamel, and her son, Quinton Hamel. Hunt and Hamel are considered the world’s longest-separated twins.
3 Renowned expert on twins Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton, center, laughs with twin sisters, Liz Hamel, left, of Albany, Ore. and Ann Hunt, of Aldershot, England, during their reunion at the Fullerton Marriott.
4 Dr. Nancy Segal of Cal State Fullerton, uses her cell phone video camera to record the reunion of twin sisters, Ann Hunt, left, of Aldershot, England and Liz Hamel, of Albany, Oregon, both 78, at the Fullerton Marriott. This is their first meeting since hey were they were born in Aldershot, England in 1936. Dr. Segal arranged and financed the meeting through a Cal State University Fullerton grant.
5 Ann Hunt, left, gives her twin Liz Hamel, both 78, a kiss during their reunion at the Fullerton Marriott.
BY SHERRI CRUZ / STAFF WRITER
Published: May 27, 2014 Updated: 2:35 p.m.
Cal State Fullerton psychology professor Nancy Segal will be steeped in twins this summer, starting with her own twin.
With her students’ final grades turned in for the semester, she was off to see her fraternal twin sister Anne, an attorney in New York City, where they both were raised.
Segal is an expert on twins and founder of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State Fullerton.
Mid-June, she’ll be at Occidental College in Los Angeles to present her twins research at the “Adventures of the Mind” conference. Then it’s off to Brazil for the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference, where researchers share findings on evolutionary influences on behavior. Segal’s research on twins contributes to the evidence that genes, more than environment, affect behavior.
From there, she’ll be talking about her twins research at the American Psychological Association’s convention in Washington D.C. Segal was awarded the association’s William James Book Award in 2013 for her book “Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study.”
This all follows on the heels of a high-profile twin reunion in Fullerton in May that Segal organized for research purposes with the help of a $10,000 grant from Cal State Fullerton.
BBC was there to document their story. While cameras rolled, the 78-year-old fraternal twins Ann Hunt and Elizabeth “Liz” Hamel embraced for the first time. They were last together at their birth in Aldershot, England on Feb. 28, 1936.
Hamel flew in from her home in Albany, Oregon, accompanied by her son, Quinton Hamel. Hunt flew in from Aldershot, a small town near London, with her daughter Samantha “Sammy” Stacey.
Hamel always knew she had a twin, but she never expected to find her. Hunt, on the other hand, didn’t know she had a sister, let alone a twin, until a year ago. She didn’t even realize Aldershot, where she lives, was her birthplace.
For Segal, the fact that they were raised apart since birth was like striking research gold. “These are rare cases packed with human interest and scientific value,” Segal said. “This was a very unique opportunity.”
Twins help psychologists better understand the role that genes and environment play in human development, Segal said.
Fraternal twins are more different than alike, Segal said. Identical twins are more alike than different.
“What we’ve found is genes are really pervasive. They affect every aspect of our behavior,” Segal said. Genes affect what kind of foods we like, job satisfaction and personality.” That took a while to catch on because people really felt the environment was so important,” she said.
“Shared environment really doesn’t have an impact on development. If you’re like your relatives it’s usually due to your shared genes.”
Segal and her research team conducted tests on the twins for two eight-hour days in her lab during their four-day stay in Fullerton. The team tested the twins’ manual dexterity and general intelligence, among other things. The twins also told their stories individually and jointly in video interviews. Researchers will use the video to observe the twins’ gestures.
The data will need to be sorted and digested. “It’s a process that will take us some time,” she said. The team’s findings will be presented as a case study and is expected to be published in the scientific journal “Personality and Individual Differences.”
The Twin Studies Center’s mission at Cal State Fullerton is twofold: To advance public understanding and education of twinship and to support Segal’s twin research and the research of her colleagues and students. Two of her researchers who graduated in May will be moving on to Ph.D. programs. Franchesca Cortez is headed to USC and Jaime Velazquez is going to University of Michigan. Velazquez was honored as one of two outstanding psychology undergraduate students of the year.
The center, which includes Segal’s office and a library, is funded through grants and donations. Segal is contacted regularly by mothers and others who have questions about twins. “People are hungry for information.”
Now for the twins.
Hamel and Hunt’s mother Alice Lamb was 33 and working as a domestic servant when she gave birth to the twins. “She found out she was pregnant and the birth father fled,” Hamel said. Lamb decided she could only care for one child, so she gave away the child she thought would be more adoptable: Hunt. Hamel had curvature of the spine, and in the 1930s a physical defect would’ve made it more difficult for her to be adopted.
Hunt lived in an orphanage in London for six months before Gladys and Hector Wilson adopted her. The couple separated when Hunt was 6.
Hunt adored her adopted mother and, like her sister, she grew up an only child. Hunt found out she was adopted when she was 13 or 14.
Throughout her life, she avoided looking for her biological mother out of devotion to her adopted mother. “You’re my chosen child,” Hunt said her mother used to tell her. Hunt recalled her mother’s words: “She let me have you and take care of you and love you.”
Lamb married a widower with a son when she was 49. She died of a heart attack at 77.
Lamb raised Hamel until her daughter enlisted in the Women’s Royal Enlisted Navy. She was stationed in Malta, where she met her future husband, a “yank,” on a blind date. They raised two sons.
Hamel moved to the United States when she was 28 and still has an English accent.
Hunt, on the other hand, never knew her biological mother. Until a year ago, she never knew where she was born and she never knew she had a twin sister. “It was such a big shock,” Hunt said.
After her adoptive mother died, Hunt felt like she could look for her biological mother. She was delighted to discover she had a twin.
“Mum was just so excited. She rang up everybody,” Samantha Stacey said. Hunt’s daughter is the one who tracked down Hamel. She began by trying to find Ann’s biological mother. She discovered that her mother was a twin because there was a notation of a multiple birth on the birth certificate.
Stacey sent Hamel a letter a year ago, asking if she was related to Alice Lamb.
Hamel took the letter to her son Quinton, who lives next door. Within 10 minutes, the twins were talking on the phone.
One thing they discovered is that they are both widows after having been married to men named Jim.
“So mom’s digesting all of this, and I tried to get her to go to England,” Quinton said. Hamel’s husband had recently died and she didn’t want to travel.
But she grew interested in learning more about twins after talking to Hunt by phone. She wound up checking out one of Segal’s books at a library.
Quinton was looking through the book and saw that Segal had written about the twins who had been separated 75 years. He told his mother, “You have that beat.”
Quinton contacted Segal by email to explain that his mother and her twin sister would now be the longest-separated twins.
Segal emailed him within 30 seconds. She arranged the reunion, knowing that studying the twins would allow her to advance her research.
Nancy Segal is a Cal State Fullerton psychology professor and director and founder of the school’s Twin Studies Center. Segal, who has a fraternal twin sister, has been studying twins for decades.
Books: She is the author of several books, including “Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior” and “Born Together – Reared Apart: The Landmark Minnesota Twin Study,” which won the American Psychological Association’s 2013 William James Book Award.
Why study twins? Twins reared together and apart can answer questions about the role that genes and environment play in our lives.
Teaching awards: 2004-2005 Distinguished Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences and 2004-2005 Outstanding Professor of the Year at Cal State Fullerton.
Education: Ph.D. and master’s degrees at University of Chicago; bachelor’s Boston University
Guest appearances: Martha Stewart Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, the Oprah Winfrey Show and Discovery Health, among others.