A research paper has recently been published suggesting that highly intelligent prefer to be alone.
By now, we have a good idea about what makes us happy. Exercise for example is known to increase the feel good chemicals in the brain and is known to reduce anxiety. Studies also show that reducing social media can drastically improve your emotional well-being. And not to mention the joy you feel when surrounded by nature.
And, for most people, being around our friends makes us feel happier and more content. However, new studies are showing that this might not be the case if you’re highly intelligent…
This very surprising claim is backed up by a vast array of new research.
Notably, a paper published in the British Journal of Psychology by Norman Li and Satoshi Kanazawa, documents the reasons why highly intelligent people experience lower life satisfaction when they’re socializing with others rather than spending time on their own.
They point to evolutionary psychology to back up their claims, stating the view that intelligence evolved to solve unique challenges. The more intelligent members of a group were able to solve problems faster on their own without needing help from their friends or peers.
This means that less intelligent people were happier to be around others as it helped them to solve challenges by working together. More intelligent people were content on being left alone as they could solve challenges for themselves.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the research study.
The researchers analyzed survey responses from 15,197 people between the ages of 18 and 28 before they drew their conclusion. The data was gathered as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a significant survey that measures life satisfaction, intelligence, and overall mental health.
One of their key findings was reported by Inverse:
“Analysis of this data revealed that being around dense crowds of people typically leads to unhappiness, while socializing with friends typically leads to happiness – that is, unless the person in question is highly intelligent.”
You read that right! For most people, being around friends and socializing with others results in higher levels of happiness. Unless you’re a really intelligent person!
It’s important to note that as always, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.
More to the point, just because you prefer to be on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you’re highly intelligent. And similarly, if you like to socialize with your friends more, it doesn’t mean you’re not highly intelligent.
The researchers noted that highly intelligent people can adapt to be more comfortable in areas of high population density and these people are known as social “chameleons” – people who are comfortable in many situations.
As the researchers concluded:
“More importantly, the main associations of life satisfaction with population density and socialization with friends significantly interact with intelligence, and, in the latter case, the main association is reversed among the extremely intelligent. More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends.”
One of the key points to take away from the study may apply to the loners in your life.
Because someone prefers to be alone, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lonely. They could just be highly intelligent and able to solve their problems on their own.
The results of the study should be interpreted a lot more broadly. We shouldn’t treat them as a statement of truth but as an interesting thought exercise. Think about who you are and compare your modern day life to what it may have been like for our ancestors.