It’s always been said that who you surround yourself with is important to who you are as a person. The character of your friends says a lot about your character. A new study from a couple of evolutionary psychologists, Satoshia Kanazawa and Norma Li, is taking the link between friends and intelligence a step further and suggesting that intelligent people prefer to have fewer friends.
At first glance, the study doesn’t suggest intelligent people are anti-social or have social deficiencies in any way. It’s more likely that intelligent people have a problem connecting with other people because they see the world differently. They take a deeper look at the things around us that most people just wander by. They are more likely to engage in anti-social hobbies like reading. I say “anti-social” meaning they are done alone, by the way – not that reading makes you anti-social. It’s just not a group activity.
Another very important aspect of the theory that intelligent people have fewer friends hinges on the fact that there are many different forms of intelligence. Dr. Robert Sternberg from Cornell University, an expert in relationships and intelligence said, “There is no psychological meaning to the word ‘highly intelligent.’ In my own theory of successful intelligence, I distinguish among analytical intelligence (IQ), creative intelligence, and practical intelligence (common sense). High IQ does not guarantee either of the latter two. Our schooling so rewards kids with high IQ that those kids have little incentive to develop high social/emotional/practical intelligence, with unfortunate results.”
A very interesting aspect of the study was what the authors called the “Savannah Theory”. Basically, the Savannah theory suggests that the hunter-gather nature of our ancient ancestor created the foundation for what makes us happy now. Our ancient ancestors were more worried about survival than they were about having a good time, so if you weren’t a contributing to the group in some way you were useless. Relationships weren’t important to our ancestors outside of eating, surviving, and reproducing. The authors suggest, “Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today.”
Not only did smarter people have fewer social interactions, but the more they had the less satisfaction they got out of life. The researchers found that People who lived in densely populated areas had lower life satisfaction overall, but people who had more social interactions with close friends were generally happier. What was surprising was that highly intelligent people showed the opposite. According to the study, “The effect of population density on life satisfaction was, therefore, more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals than for high-IQ individuals. More intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently.” In other words, the smarter you are the less you like interacting with people – even your friends…
The findings are controversial, to say the least, but make sense in a way. I think that highly intelligent people, genius level intelligent, tend to lack the same social skills of people of average intelligence. That particular correlation has been proven throughout history. We all have our own quirks and intricacies that make us who we are, and personally don’t take offense to the fact that smarter people are considered less socially active. Again, it boils down to your lifestyle more than anything else. If you are in a lab working on developing the next medical revolution in nanobot technology, chances are that you’re not going to be found at the local pub drinking a beer on a Friday night.