Do you ever dream about being a hermit? Would you prefer to live in a countryside cabin, instead of a bustling city? Would you rather stick your nose in a book than throw your hands up in the air?
Do you hide when someone rings your doorbell unexpectedly?
If this sounds like you, I have good news. You’re not anti-social. In fact, you just might be a genius.
According to an NCBI study, people who are highly intelligent tend to associate with fewer people and seek out social interaction less frequently. Interestingly, their life satisfaction increases when they choose to live by this strategy.
According to lead researchers Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman Li, for those seeking happiness, the “hermit in the woods” strategy might be the way to go – especially for people who are highly intelligent. Through thorough research, these evolutionary psychologists were able to determine that human beings are happier living in less densely populated areas. They also found that happiness increases when a greater percentage of our social interactions are with our most dearly loved ones, as opposed to strangers, casual friends, or acquaintances.
Unsurprisingly, the study’s participants reported a greater level of happiness when they had more frequent social interaction – except for one group. For the most highly intelligent of people, this effect was not only diminished, but was actively reversed.
In fact, as the researchers explained, “More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends.”
Carol Graham, who studies the economics of happiness, examined this effect in a Washington Post article. “The findings suggest (and it is no surprise) that those with more intelligence and the capacity to use it are less likely to spend so much time socializing because they are focused on some other longer term objective.”
In other words, that nerd who says they have better things to do than hang out with friends is actually on to something.
In interpreting the results of this study, evolutionary psychologists found great significance in this dynamic in relation to the “Savannah Theory.” This theory proposes that we find happiness in the same things that would have made our ancestors happy. On the savannah, population density would have been low, and interpersonal interaction would have been incredibly important for survival.
This study’s results, although ultimately in support of this theory, suggest that the most highly intelligent of human beings may be evolving past the need for very frequent social interaction. Instead, they are beginning to favor activities which promote our advancement in the modern world – which tend to be more intellectually and economically based. We need interaction less than our ancestors did, so the most highly evolved human beings have ceased to prioritize it.