Intelligent People Are Happiest When Alone

Max Pixel / CC-0 / Public Domain

While most people are happiest in the company of close friends, highly intelligent people are happiest when alone.

While many people are happiest when with friends, smart people find being alone the most enjoyable time, the World Economic Forum reports.

The study performed by the Singapore Management University's Norman P. Li and the London School of Economics and Political Science's Satoshi Kanazawa, investigated the "savannah theory" of happiness. The savannah theory, also known as the “mismatch hypothesis” and the “evolutionary legacy hypothesis," states that people react to situations in similar ways to our ancestors, having psychological roots in our ancestors' needs during the time period when humankind lived only in savannahs.

The researchers analyzed interview data from 1,5197 individuals aged 18-28 collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) from 2001 to 2002. They were interested in looking at the correlation between the population density in the respondents' home areas and their levels of life satisfaction.

They concluded that people in areas of greater population density were generally less happy, supporting the savannah theory because, they say, we would naturally feel uncomfortable around more people if our brains were made to function in groups of approximately 150 people—a figure that many studies of the human brain and of hunter-gatherer suggest is ideal for human functioning.

But they also discovered that most people experience a significant increase in life satisfaction with a few close friendships. This finding, however, was reversed for individuals of high intelligence. Smart people appreciate their own company more than that of others, even if it comes from good friends. A “healthy” social life, they found, actually left people of high intelligence with lower levels of life satisfaction.

The precise reason for this correlation is unknown, and to make matters even more confusing, the study additionally found that spending more time with friends is an indicator of higher intelligence.

“This baffling contradiction is counter-intuitive, at least,” the World Economic Forum reported. “Unless these smart people are not so much social as they are masochistic.”

Read the full story here.

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DrMerlyn
DrMerlyn

I have five degrees, including a PhD, and certainly find my own company largely enjoyable. However, I do need convivial and emotionally supportive companionship. Since my academic pursuit did not provide a collegiate group from which to source that social interaction I find my friends among the wider community. In many ways, this means a percentage of my intellectual life remains isolated, as I rarely get to discuss ideas and concepts at that more complex, theoretically informed level. From some sectors I experience resentment, even anti-intellectualism, people to whom my education and achievements are a matter of scorn and appear to be almost a social disability. I was a mature student and struggling to keep my pre-academic friends, wrote this poem: Meditations on Freedom

The Big 'C' said, ‘Consider the lilies’ The Big 'R' said, ‘Born free and straight into chains’ The Big 'M' said it was a matter of [r]evolution Fromm said, ‘We must like our chains, otherwise, Well, we'd just use that key we have in our pocket Why else would we let other people run our lives?’

My friend Tahlula said, ‘I have enough to deal with Paying the rent, helping my daughter's career, My ex's failure to contribute, my lover's alcoholism These daily exigencies are my chains I’ve no energy for the sort of freedom you mean No spare time to worry about abstract power Or analyze who wields it’

My friend Tom asked, ‘Why do you bother us with such talk? No one is interested in nebulous academic theories And failed ideas such as communism
We glaze over instantly I'm too busy selling my house and buying another While I work every day in a demanding job And help my son through his HSC’

My friend Jenni cried, as I explained Marx's moral vacuum ‘Oh its too early for such heady stuff I don't understand it, don't want to, and it’s boring! Talk about it to someone who's interested’ And when I wailed that I had no one else She added,‘You used to be fun when you made frocks Maybe you should find something else to do…’

No wonder intellectuals seek solace with each other Get odd ideas about the way things ought to be Dream of a world where everyone cares About truth, justice and equality Take up with ideologies Lose perspective on ordinary life Start trying to change the world And lose the plot