Why Smarter People are Happier with Fewer Friends
If you believe the class genius is a loner because he’s an arrogant know-it-all, or because he’s socially awkward, that’s not (necessarily) the case. Instead, it might be because he or she is honestly happier without the incessant inane prattling of mere mortals like you, or I.
New research published by the British Journal of Psychology in February, authored by evolutionary psychologists Norman Li from the Singapore Management University and Satoshi Kanazawa from the London School of Economics, suggests that smarter people may be happier going it alone.
According to them our roots in ancient hunter-gatherer society, in what they call”the savanna theory of happiness,” explains our current perception of happiness. They use the theory to explain the outcome of a survey of 15,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 28.
Analyzing the statistics and demographics of the survey, they found that (unsurprisingly) people who lived in areas with more people per unit area were less happy. On the other hand, people with more social interactions (again no surprises here) said that they were happier.
Here’s the shocker though: smarter people were not as strongly affected by the above two factors. In fact, they might even be happier living in denser areas with less interaction with others.
“The effect of population density on life satisfaction was therefore more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals than for high-IQ individuals. More intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently.”
Yes, you heard that right.
“Residents of rural areas and small towns are happier than those in suburbs, who in turn are happier than those in small central cities, who in turn are happier than those in large central cities,” they explain the obvious part 1 of their findings. “Our ancestors lived as hunter–gatherers in small bands of about 150 individuals. In such settings, having frequent contact with lifelong friends and allies was likely necessary for survival and reproduction for both sexes.”
So we are instinctively wired to work together and to thrive in relatively small communities. However, times have changed significantly since then… and according to the researchers, smarter people may have simply become more adapt at dealing with the new normal.
“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems, may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations.”
Remember, this conclusion was reached by individuals who are probably above-average in terms of intelligence to begin with. It is also just a theory, and not a reason to avoid that guy who keeps dropping random factoids (he’s probably not really that bright anyway). Then there’s another possibility: maybe some people just can’t stand conversations that consistently revolve around celebrity worship?