New Study Reveals the Real Reason Why Smart People Are Better off Alone

smart people are better off alone

If you’re intelligent, you’re better off alone.

At least, that’s what a recent study in the British Journal of Psychology claims. The question that evolutionary psychologists Kanazawa and Li were looking to answer is what makes a life well-lived and how intelligence, population density and friendship can affect our happiness.

The psychologists theorized that the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors form the basis of what makes us happy in modern times, “Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today.” Their study was carried out on 15,000 adults aged between 18 – 28 and their results weren’t actually all that surprising.

Firstly, their findings showed that people who lived in more densely populated areas were less satisfied with their life in general, compared to those who live in less populated areas. The second finding that the psychologists discovered was that the more social a person is with their close friends, the greater they said their happiness was. But there was an exception. These correlations were diminished or even reversed when the results of intelligent people were analyzed. In other words – when smart people spend time with their friends, it makes them less happy.

Why would intelligent people not gain happiness when they’re around close family and friends? There may be many explanations, including this one, given by Carol Graham, a researcher who studies the economics of happiness,

The findings in here 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.

This generally makes sense since those intelligent people are so focused on achieving their intellectual goals, anything that takes away from those ambitions makes them unhappy.

The modern day human life has changed rapidly since our ancestors’ time and with technological advances rapidly improving, there may be a kind of mismatch between our brains and the way our bodies are designed to handle situations, according to Kanazawa and Li.

So there we have it. We thought that human interaction would make people happier, but it turns out intelligent people are better off alone. What do you think of these recent findings? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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I'm a psychology student with a passion for books, good food and movies. I can often be found reading self-help articles snuggled up in bed with a cup of coffee or writing about anything and everything in a quiet cafe somewhere.

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By | 2017-01-13T21:48:43+00:00 March 23rd, 2016|Categories: Psychology & Mental Health, Uncommon Science|Tags: , , , |117 Comments


  1. pat December 28, 2016 at 1:28 am - Reply

    I tried the Wechsler IQ test and am happy to report that I came in at 79..below average, Despite that, at an age of over 50 I made money, learned another language , traveled the world, made love to a host of different women, learned a musical instrument to a high standard. can sail, fish, hunt, repair things, make things and am now off biking around a foreign country and love to explore foreign and different cultures. I might be stupid but I’m not stupid. Lol

    • Shekes February 14, 2017 at 3:55 pm - Reply

      Do another test please! IQ is not intelligence of course, but still, I would have thought that with a score of 79 one would have great difficulties in our society/economy. Therefore, I would be interested to know if this really is your score. You know; given your success with women, fish and things. Also: What was the host doing while you were making love to his women?

  2. Heini Hämäinen January 7, 2017 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    “the more social a person is with their close friends, the greater they said their happiness was. But there was an exception. These correlations were diminished or even reversed when the results of intelligent people were analyzed. In other words – when smart people spend time with their friends, it makes them less happy.” I don’t think you can conclude that intelligent people are better of alone. Maybe they enjoy other things less as well not only social interaction. Does social iteraction make them less happy compared with not so smart people or does it make them less happy than being alone? Are “intelligent” people less happy in general?

  3. T February 1, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

    When you’re genius-level intelligent, it’s hard to find friends who are as smart as you. And the fact of the matter is, being the smartest person in the room at all times can be frustrating. It sucks to be the one person who “gets it”, because it means you’re always waiting for everyone else to catch up. I’d rather go home and write code. I know I sound full of myself, but it’s the truth. We’re better off alone because it’s less tiring.

  4. Beatriz February 26, 2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    One reason may be that you can’t read when you’re socializing and happiest when reading!

  5. Mark March 3, 2017 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Do intelligent people tend to be introvert? If so, that would definitely explain the result. I am 97% introvert (according to the interweb) and have 1 ( count one) close friend who I see about once a year for a week. We have a great time, get drunk and high and eat good food, and then we don’t see each other again or a year. My IQ is up in the high percentiles according to all the tests I have taken (I am not convinced how relevant they are), and I would guess that a) the question was malformed, b) highly intelligent people like to fuck with researchers by giving false answers or c) the statistic is irrelevant and gives no valuable input.
    The idea that highly intelligent people “are less likely to spend so much time socialising because they are focused on some other longer term objective” sounds like a load of bollocks to me, and the kind of rubbish that motivational book sellers would use to sell their latest and greatest guru’s self help toilette roll.

  6. Qt April 1, 2017 at 6:15 am - Reply

    I disagree. I find myself driven by my goals, often more than most things. Yes, I am a slight workaholic and very extroverted but often times with friends leaves me making list in my head of the most efficient process to complete a variety of tasks.

  7. Patrick Dieter April 12, 2017 at 5:54 am - Reply

    I think the man who said “it’s hard to be the smartest person in the room” got it right. There is, of course, a cure for that. Simply spend most of your time with other smart people! I note that he also said he was afraid he sounded “full of himself.” In most places in the US, people resent and revile someone who is intelligent and not afraid to show it. All my life, I’ve been accused of being egotistical, vain, and a “show-off.” I admit, sometimes I absolutely WAS those things — everyone is from time to time. Mostly, though, I was just not trying to “hide my light under a bushel” and people get intimidated when they don’t understand things that come easily to you. Which is, after all, THEIR problem. Once I matured enough to stop worrying about others’ opinions, and shed the neediness for approval, I found myself attracting others as friends who shared my intelligence. One smart person is awesome, but a whole TEAM — wow! I don’t consider myself “better than” others, but I do notice that I am often smarter than many others. It’s just what I was born with — not good, not bad, just IS.

    I don’t have a HUGE group of friends, but I do have a few, including my amazing spouse and we have a whole lotta fun!

  8. Mike Martin April 29, 2017 at 12:58 am - Reply

    I think you are confusing intellect with ambition. Perhaps intelligent people prefer to be alone more than their less intelligent counterparts – I personally consider myself quite intelligent, and I would say this correlation applies – but the reasoning for such behavior is the result of a preference to be introspective rather successful. Intelligent people are deep thinkers. They desire to be alone in times where they favor the company of their own thoughts over the interference presented by others in a social setting. The presentation that intelligent people would rather be alone solely due to the fact that they are too busy pursuing their personal goals grossly oversimplifies the issue. Some of the most ambitious people I know are equally arrogant, and they generally reject the company of others for egocentric reasons.

    In closing, I agree with the overall premise that intelligent people prefer to be alone more often on a more frequent basis, but I do not necessarily agree with the rational you have presented to arrive at this conclusion. The irony is that intelligent people would not allow the reasoning behind their preference for solitude to be so simple.

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