Why do smart people often have fewer friends?

In particular, if smart people spend a lot of time with their friends, they will not be happy.

A very interesting new study has been published in British Journal of Psychology. Evolutionary psychologists, Satoshi Kanazawa of London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University dug into the question: What makes life better? As a problem in the field of priests, philosophers and writers, in recent years, researchers, economists, biologists and scientists have been involved in answering that question.

Kanazawa and Li hypothesized that the ancestral hunting lifestyle of human ancestors formed the basis for our present happiness. The two scientists used what they called the "savanna theory of happiness" to explain two major findings in a large national survey of 15,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 28.

First, they found that people living in densely populated areas tended to be dissatisfied with their common life. "The higher population density, the less happiness," the survey said. Second, they recognized that the more social interaction they had with their close friends, the happier they would be.


However, there is one big exception. For those who are more intelligent, these findings may not seem right, even contradictory. In particular, if smart people spend a lot of time with their friends, they will not be happy. Both of these findings are controversial. Previously, a large research agency had a report called "the happy elements of the urban". Why does high population density make people less happy? There's a sociological study on this, but for ease of understanding, try cycling for 45 minutes through the busy streets, you know how you feel.


Why do smart people have fewer friends?

The second discovery of Kanazawa and Li is less interesting. Because it is not surprising that family and friendships are seen as fundamental elements of happiness. But why is this not true for people who are really smart?

Carol Graham, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, said that more intelligent people didn’t want to spend a lot of time interacting with their friends because they were attracted to longer-term goals.


Think about the really smart people you know. They may be a doctor trying to find a cure for cancer, a writer writing a great novel, or a human rights lawyer trying to protect the weak in society. With these people, interacting with friends and relatives can distract them and make them unhappy.

But Kanazawa and Li's "savanna theory of happiness" have another explanation. This explanation is based on the premise that the human brain is always evolving to meet the ancestral needs of our ancestors on African savanna (where the population density is less than 1 person per square kilometer) and today our brains have to live in areas like Manhattan (population density is 27,685 people per square kilometer).

Similar to friendship, our ancestors lived in small groups of about 150 people for hunting and gathering, in that context, frequent communication with longtime friends was essential to survival and reproduction. Human life has basically changed so rapidly since that day - when we have never had a car or an iPhone - and it is quite possible that our biological bodies can’t evolve fast enough with life. So, there may be a certain "rhythm error" between how our brains and bodies are designed, with how the world we live in.


Meanwhile, those who are really smart can adapt better to the new, they have higher intelligence, so the ability to handle the problem better. If you are smarter and more adaptable, you can easily integrate into the modern world. Therefore, living in a densely populated area may have little impact on you. Similarly, smart people easily get rid of their habit of interacting with friends as in the old gathering society - especially if they are pursuing some great ambition.

However, it is important to remember that these are still theories and arguments that Kanazawa and Li offer, not science. Moreover, the findings are controversial.

By: Gitta Russell

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