Why The Smartest People Often Make The Worst Decisions

Satoshi Kanazawa explains that intelligent people often override common sense with their considerable brain power—but this isn’t always a good thing.

Smart people think in situations where they should feel, like in relationships. They may avoid the correct response because it doesn’t seem rational when we all know that life isn’t always rational.

Via The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One:

Intelligent people, however, have a tendency to overapply their analytical and logical reasoning abilities derived from their general intelligence incorrectly to such evolutionarily familiar domains and, as a result, get things wrong. In other words, liberals and other intelligent people lack common sense because their general intelligence overrides it. They think in situations where they are supposed to feel. In evolutionarily familiar domains such as interpersonal relationships, feeling usually leads to correct solutions whereas thinking does not.

This same tendency to rely on superior mental power also trips up smart people when the pressure is on. They’re more likely to choke under pressure. Being very smart can even hamper creativity.

Jonathan Haidt points to research showing that high IQ improves people’s ability to defend their own position but doesn’t have any effect on ability to better understand the other side’s position.

So smart people are better at arguing their own views but they’re not necessarily better at understanding where others are coming from.

Via The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion:

Perkins found that IQ was by far the biggest predictor of how well people argued, but it predicted only the number of my-side arguments. Smart people make really good lawyers and press secretaries, but they are no better than others at finding reasons on the other side. Perkins concluded that “people invest their IQ in buttressing their own case rather than in exploring the entire issue more fully and evenhandedly.”

What else do we know about smarts?

  • Who is smart? Funny people and liberals. We assume bald guys are intelligent. Sometimes you really can tell who is smart just by looking at them.
  • Stupidity can be contagious and the world really may be getting stupider.
  • “The single strongest predictor of a person’s IQ is the IQ of his or her mother.” There are ways to increase your intelligence.
  • It’s believed that 80% of Harvard students are first born children. (You may not want to envy Harvard students—they have terrible sex lives.) Smarter people are more likely to have affairs.
  • And don’t try to act smarter than you are, it just makes you look stupid.

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