If you’re looking for an excuse to back out of a social engagement tonight — preferably one that’s not, “I’d rather play Pokémon Go” — have we got the perfect line for you.
“I’m just too intelligent.”
Be sure to come with plenty of supporting evidence, namely an IQ score and the results of a recent study on the “savanna theory of happiness.” Your pals will be sure to understand.
The study, led by psychologists at Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics, found that people are generally happier the more time they spend with friends. That is, except really smart people.
The researchers arrived at these conclusions after conducting two studies. Both relied on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which involved interviews with more than 15,000 people between ages 18 and 28 in the years 2001 and 2002.
For the first study, the researchers looked at the link between three factors: participants’ scores on an intelligence test, the population density in the area where participants lived, and how satisfied participants were with their lives.
Results showed that people were generally happier in less populated areas — except for highly intelligent people.
For the second study, the researchers looked at the link between participants’ IQ scores, their life satisfaction, and how often they socialised (meaning hung out or talked on the phone with) friends.
Sure enough, the more time people spent with friends, the happier they were — except for the really smart people. In fact, results showed that the more intelligent people socialised with friends, the less satisfied they were with life.
The researchers can’t say for sure why they got these results. One possibility they propose is the savanna theory of happiness, an evolutionary theory that suggests the human brain responds to the “ancestral consequences” of its environment and well-being varies as a result.
In other words, humans used to live in communities of about 150 people, so when we’re in environments where the population exceeds that number, we’re not as comfortable or happy.
Likewise, in those groups of 150 hunters and gatherers, frequent contact with friends was crucial to our survival. So today, when we feel too isolated, we feel less happy.
Here’s where intelligence comes in. One of the study authors previously proposed that intelligence is the ability to adapt to novel environments — i.e. environments that would have freaked out our ancestors. So highly intelligent people aren’t as bothered by living in uber-crowded communities or by spending time alone.
Perhaps the most intriguing finding from this study is that highly intelligent participants actually spent more time socialising with friends. That suggests people either don’t know what makes them happy, or don’t have much control over how they spend their time.
So, regardless of what your IQ is or what you believe it to be, it’s worth paying attention to what makes you happy — and not what you think should make you happy. If that means taking a “me” day or hopping off a subway car where passengers are packed like sardines, go for it. Your ever-evolving brain will thank you.
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