The idea that a high degree of socialization and intelligence don’t go together seems not just to be a popular perception but a fact.

You know the typical crowd, “Wow, it’s Friday night, what are you going to do? Just sit there?” Well, yeah. Because there’s nothing out there. It’s stupidity. Stupid people mingling with stupid people. Let them stupidify themselves.

~ Charles Bukowski

A study aimed at finding the correlation between evolution and socialization found that ‘more intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization’.

The researchers posited that the reason for this may be that highly intelligent people are more adapted to modern living than others, as ancestral living conditions entailed far more reliance on socialization for survival.

There are other possible reasons why intelligent people may avoid a high degree of social contact:

1. Intelligent people may lack social skills

“I am alone, I thought, and they are everybody.”

~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

William Little’s Introduction to Sociology cites the case of a man called Chris Langan ‘the smartest man you’ve never heard of’. It describes Langan as having an IQ of over 195, which is 100 points higher than that of the average human being. He’s thought to have been among the most intelligent people the world has ever seen.

Chris Langan, however, enjoyed no success or achievement in his life. He worked various low-level jobs and had a life story filled with disappointment and isolation.

The problem, according to psychologist Robert Sternberg, was that Chris Langan lacked the social skills to make achievements corresponding to his intelligence. He was incapable of ‘knowing what to say to whom, knowing how to say it, and knowing how to say it to maximum effect’ (Sternberg et al. 2000).

This is an extreme example, of course, and many intelligent people know at least how to communicate enough to get on in life. However, it’s possible that what people gain in intelligence, they often lose in social skills.

2. Socialization is a distraction from work

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

An obvious factor behind the avoidance of socialization that we see in intelligent people is that socializing takes up a good deal of time and effort. Intelligent people are far more likely than unintelligent people to have interests that reach beyond who is dating whom and what so-and-so is wearing.

Most intelligent people are compelled to act on their intelligence in some way by working on something, whether it’s a personal project or something to do with their career.

They may also simply prefer consuming knowledge through reading or other intellectual pursuits to spending time out with friends.

3. It’s more difficult to fit in with the crowd

“So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.”

~ Sylvia Plath

Lack of socialization may not always be a conscious choice for intelligent people. However, being more intelligent than others can be isolating for reasons that are beyond the intelligent person’s control.

Even if they have adequate social skills, they may still find it very difficult to fit in with people and may find they share little common ground with people of average intelligence.

People don’t understand, and care even less, about the things they are interested in. People may view them as boring at best and arrogant at worst. People often don’t like being around people who are their intellectual superiors as it makes them feel stupid.

Intelligent people who face loneliness as a result of their differences with the vast majority of people may find themselves having to ‘play dumb’ to get along with people.

This can make them appear more normal to others, but below the surface, they may suffer from an even greater degree of loneliness and isolation as they realize that none of their ‘friends’ actually know who they are on the inside.

4. Socialization causes greater anxiety in intelligent people

“I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it.”

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Research has shown that intelligent people are more prone to anxiety than people of average intelligence. It has been shown that they’re more likely to spend time replaying unpleasant or embarrassing scenes in their head than anything else – even than thinking on intellectual matters if such scenes should occur.

This demonstrates that socialization can have an adverse rather than positive effect on intelligent people, as they’re more likely to suffer than average people if something goes wrong – which it frequently does.

As such anxiety can have a negative impact on health, it’s easy to understand why intelligent people may choose to shy away from excessive social interaction.

As German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer pointed out in his essay entitled On Noise, intelligent people are less likely to be able to stand environments with a great deal of noise and disturbance.

For this reason, going to clubs and busy bars where people usually like to socialize is something that intelligent people may try to avoid.

Ultimately, loneliness may be an affliction the intelligent have to bear as the price they pay for their intelligence.

Whenever you feel down because you feel like you don’t fit in and never will, remember: you’re in good company.

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke”

~ Vincent van Gogh

Have you experienced isolation as a result of your intelligence? Share your experiences with us.

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. me

    I would love to share my experiences with you of isolation as a result of my intelligence, but right now my *intelligence* is preparing to be homeless in the streets tomorrow in the Artic as a result of the isolation of my experience!!!

    1. Nilanjib Roy

      I don’t socialize too. But I don’t think I am intelligent. 🙁

      1. Diana

        I don’t know if i’m smart enought , but I alwais try to stay alone. This week especially i fired myself for job , and argue with a person thay i know from two years. I feeling fucking creep , i alwais think that i dont belong to this world. My life is full of unsuccefull experience and I dont really know what to do. The scene of this negative thoughts is running alwais on my mind thinking what and how should i say different in order to conservate myself in the society. I would not say that i’m surround by stupid people , i would rather say that people arround me are superficial and false and I prefer stay hotel in silence. In the last year i even try to avoid my neighbour just not to talk about more or less how the life goes because i don’t think i will fond some food for my brain. And that’s all.

  2. David Betts

    Very interesting stuff! I wouldn’t say I’m highly intelligent, but I often feel anxious in social settings, and I LOVE deep thinking. Right now I’m camping in the bush by myself, just contemplating things. I’m also right into spiritual stuff – NDE’s (Near Death Experiences).

  3. Glen

    Nah, it’s strictly the first quote. “Stupid people stupidifying themselves.” I can socialize with anyone, but when I talk, their heads cave in and implode with the suggestion of THINKING. That’s the main problem – the difference between those of us who actually can think and those who thought they “think” something. Then due to the class and caste system of society, where double highs gain positions of authority, from which everyone else draws their information, you truly have the blind leading the blind (and the dumb, and deaf, etc.) My issue is dumbing myself down arbitrarily for shallow conversation – sure if you were my boss at my job I’d entertain you with an answer as to whether or not it’s “hot/cold enough for me?” today, but if you’re just some buffoon it’s pointless and nothing is gained for me personally to even acknowledge you.
    The ultimate problem with this article is that it doesn’t explain intelligence. It is multifaceted, which is why artists probably tend to hang around other artists of a kind (spacial intelligence), and politicians tend to be around other talking heads (social intelligence), etc. etc. and since were taught from an early age to gravitate towards cliques (due to school) you tend to forgo individualism in favor of the monkey-see monkey-do method of evolution. Then if you ever do become an individual, you realize everyone else is just a cardboard cutout of everyone else and you find better things to do than become stupider! haha

    1. Random Enigma


    2. Dr. Kael


  4. somerandomperson

    Very insightful article about the manifestations of highly intelligent people…I dislike calling myself highly intelligent, but I do know I’ve grown up to be excessively shy in elementary through high school and only talked to people where we seemed to understand each other on an intellectual, deep level. I admit that in 9th grade I attempted the “playing dumb” act so I could at least try to fit in with everyone, but I realized that I was simply draining myself muttering stupid things. I think I subconsciously went back into my shell about three days after trying.
    I’m pretty selective when it comes to my friends, too…not that I choose to be that way but my friendships last the longest whenever I’m able to maintain depth with them and we’re able to keep up with each other.

  5. Karthik

    Every 31st of December I feel lonely for no apparent reason as I see people all around me are enjoying their celebrations…apparent because I have never enjoyed partying

    1. guest

      You’re not the only who feels that way. But there’s no need to feel bad about ‘cuz I myself no longer enjoy parties.

  6. Joe Allaire

    Either I am smart or antisocial.

  7. mike

    “It has been shown that they’re more likely to spend time replaying unpleasant or embarrassing scenes in their head than anything else – even than thinking on intellectual matters if such scenes should occur.” This I do regularly. I also find I am lonely, but want to be alone. Unsolvable.

  8. Anamika

    Indeed its the dilemma of an introvert with an overactive mind and yes at times burst up as an extrovert and then runs to isolation because of not feeling fit anywhere. And another pathetic thing is they get to know what’s going on in others mind without them speaking at all and run away from crowds overwhelmed… Funny, poor creatures are they.

  9. Janet

    “socializing” and “socialization” are two different things, though in some ways socialization also fits and is food for thought. I definitely recognize myself in what you write.

  10. Rosalie

    I’ve read a couple of articles about “how you feel when you’re very intelligent” and this one strikes me as deeper and more nuanced. I know it’s very hard for me to have a feeling of “belonging” (I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced it) and people don’t like me so much. But I never thought it could be because they feel stupid. I guess I have to accept that because I’m not interested in dumbing myself down.

  11. Emmanuel Etuk

    Most times its needless trying to fit in especially where discussiveness and rants devoid of any reasonabilities is prevalent, once i kept trying only to be singled out and now i know better as they say, birth of a feather flogs together.

  12. SomeOneWithK

    I’m not really happy to fit in the description, (I don’t even thing in myself as a smart person, I just “think” before do things), so what is the meaning of society if it shutdown the most smart and prize the dumbiests?

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