Do you enjoy nothing more than socialising with a group of friends? Or are you inclined to treasure your alone time? While the FOMO debate rages on amidst all our frenzied hashtagging, a new study has found that your levels of social interaction can reveal a lot about your intelligence.
Satoshi Kanazawa, of the London School of Economics, and Norman Li, of Singapore Management University, measured the level of happiness 15,000 people of varying IQ levels experienced when socialising heavily with friends compared with spending time alone.
They use what they call “the savanna theory of happiness” to explain two main findings from an analysis of the survey of adults aged 18 to 28. In the study, the pair theorises that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our ancient ancestors still forms a foundation for what make us happy today.
Life on the African savanna, for example, would have been starkly different to city life. It’s thought people would have lived in widely dispersed groups of around 150 people, and that socialising among your own tribe would have been crucial for survival both in terms of food gathering and reproduction. So being associated with a larger group would have been imperative to existence. Kanazawa and Li base their conclusions on these principles.
First, they found that people who live in more densely populated areas tend to report less satisfaction with their life overall. “The higher the population density of the immediate environment, the less happy,” the survey respondents said they were. Secondly, they found that the most social interactions with close friends a person has, the greater their self-reported happiness.
But there was one big exception. For more intelligent people, these correlations were diminished or even reversed, according to The Washington Post.
“The effect of population density on life satisfaction was more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals than for high-IQ individuals,” they found. And “more intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialised with their friends more frequently.”
So, while the majority of people still find happiness from the same things – having a close-knit group within which they can socialise, and enjoying more sprawling living spaces – the researchers believe that those with a higher IQ have actually evolved beyond these needs. Their brains have evolved and they are more equipt to deal with modern-day situations in which many may frequently find themselves without a team of people around them.
“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems,” they explained, “may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations.” In other words, according to the study, intelligent people tend to prefer spending time alone as they are better equipt at letting go of ancestral associations and adapting to modern life.