Super smart people are often portrayed in pop culture as introverts. This all-too common portrayal pushes the notion that extremely intelligent people are socially awkward individuals.
A recent study delving into the correlation between social contact and happiness reveals that there may be some truth in the stereotype, however.
In their research, evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University suggest that the basic social skills humans developed during their earlier history still influences our happiness today.
This belief is based on the “savannah theory of happiness,” which states that the same influences that made early humans satisfied are technically the still the same in our current era.
“Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today,” the researchers wrote.
The research involved an analysis of longitudinal survey data of 15,000 participants aged 18 to 28. According to the Washington Post, the team focused on just two factors: population density and the frequency people interact with friends.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Psychology, were not that surprising. Naturally, a crowded commute during rush hour frustrated the subjects, while going out and socializing with friends evoked a more positive reaction and was associated with life satisfaction.
When intelligence was factored in, however, the results were a little different.
It was revealed that with the extremely intelligent, more frequent social interaction is actually linked with dissatisfaction. On the other hand, self-reported happiness is higher in small towns than in cities.
Kanazawa and Li saw a similar pattern in how our hunter-gatherer ancestors were perfectly adapted to life on the African savannah while living in very small communities of around 150.
In such circumstance, while social interaction was crucial to survival, space was also a big consideration. The researchers believe that brains that evolved to meet the demands of such settings would not be at ease with the crowded city life.
The research also suggests that smarter individuals are also able to better adapt to the challenges of modern life, thus making it easier to ditch social roots.
“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems, may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations,” the researchers wrote.