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.”