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.

Christina Lawson, B.A.

Copyright © 2012-2020 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

This Post Has 128 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Yamin Reika

    Because there are unbounded morals with people that you have to analyze to make things more stable but truly most people are troublesome they just sit there and talk endlessly , quite an energy drainer I say. 😉

  2. Avatar
    Sylvia S

    Highly intelligent people tend to see through the social and moral inconsistencies of others. Lies told, deceptions attemted, are easy to identify for some. These inconsistencies tend to leave a lasting impression and cause a state of inner turmoil as we try to reconcile amoral or sociopathic behaviour in others. Socializing with other intelligent people helps, but not always. It is sometimes better to be alone than to associate with the ‘wrong crowd’ or others who display inappropriate, amoral, or aberrant behaviour.

  3. Avatar
    Manon

    How nice to find a positive connotation on being alone!
    I prefer reading, writing, thinking, making music, over gossiping, alcohol and talking about superficial matters.

  4. Avatar
    Boris

    I think it depends on the circumstance. For me, if I spend (Social) time with people who are not on the same wavelength, I walk away feeling empty and felt like my time has been wasted. I think most people would be the same, regardless of their “intellect”. I like socialising, but its the company that’s important.

  5. Avatar
    divya gupta

    depends on how I am feeling at that time. Sometimes I just sit with people; they talk and I just listen to them and sometimes I take part. I like my own space too. sitting alone with tea or coffee, analyzing my whole day activity and planning for the next day.I like to be as an extrovert and introvert both; depends on circumstances.

  6. Avatar
    Gregory Overcashier

    I agree but what are those things on that woman’s calves?

    1. Avatar
      Justin Bowen

      GREGORY OVERCASHIER March 31, 2016 at 1:54 am I agree but what are those things on that woman’s calves?

      -Leg warmers

  7. Avatar
    Susan Jane Totty

    We are not talking cans of soup produced to a specific recipe here. There are interesting/ thought provoking aspects in all we meet. Being self absorbed is not limited high intellect.

  8. Avatar
    Md.rayyan

    its true.. i agree completely with the study

  9. Avatar
    tim jordi

    totally agree. most people talk just to hear themselves and figure things out…some have it figured out and are on a mission to complete their lives…head to the hills!!!!

  10. Avatar
    Cynthia Stewart

    Makes complete sense to me.

  11. Avatar
    Piotr

    As exceptional high intelligent person, I can confirm that I feel very good alone and hasn’t many friends. There are many reasons for this, not only ambitions to achieve intellectual goals, but also ability and high pleasure with doing intellectual tasks. However, too deep disconnection with people has also some disadvantages. After master soft skills and emotional intelligence to resonable levels, I am often focused on increase number and quality of contacts also outside my closest family and I try remember about this.

    1. Avatar
      Javier

      weak ass spelling though, so much for highly intelligent person, and weak ass three people for liking this persons highly intelligent grammatical errors

      1. Avatar
        Dee

        Piotr speaks English,it is second, or third language — whereas, you only grunt profanity. No Christmas sox for you, you gelatinous slime mold.

    2. Avatar
      Vincent

      As a really dumb person, I can totally relate to this. I often can’t wait to be in large groups, so that others can balance out my ridiculously low IQ.

  12. Avatar
    justalady21

    Nope, I do not agree most intelligent people are better of being alone. I do agree that, like less intelligent people, some are better off and some are not. I do not think the need to be alone is driven by intelligence in most cases. What I do find it that intelligent people have a more difficult time spending time with certain friends who are on a different wavelength and don’t display much tolerance for the ways in which many intelligent people think and communicate. Intelligent people just need to be more tolerant, as in enough for two) to make up the lack on the part of the other person.

  13. Avatar
    Kurt A. Hinds

    I’m usually sceptical when it comes to “studies” but speaking for myself it would explain a great deal.. I always just saw myself as a bad friend or family member…

    1. Avatar
      Eva Jimenez

      I feel your pain!

  14. Avatar
    Sri Aiyer Raju Sreenivasan

    They are all dumb out there. Who has the time to explain every one of your thought or action to them dolts? It is better you are left alone. In solitude I find happiness and contentment.

  15. Avatar
    Piotr

    Intelligent people should also care about social contacts, even when this is not their preference. I would like to underline, that intelligence as IQ is parameter, which is often related with other elements like knowledge and behavioral habits – generally other elements related to IQ can provoke to prefer be rather alone. It is rather wider topic than connecting only IQ with quality and amount of relationships.

  16. Avatar
    A.C.A.B.

    All my problems arise when I become entangled with others. What with their chicanery, deceit, greed, jealousy and lies. Have you tried communicating with some people lately? It’s like trying to talk to half-a-ton of condemned veal, they are like lobotomized cabbages. I think the television has a great deal to answer for.

  17. Avatar
    Robert

    I drink alone… YEAH with nobody else. You know when I drink alone… I prefer to be by myself.

    I don’t drink, but I love my alone life. Of course I would go nuts without the occasional get together, but most preferably with one, no more than two individuals. I remember someone telling me once that the reason i love being alone, is because I am very selfish. I am not sorry, I have to agree to some extent. However, with most people with their head in their phones and up other places, I prefer to be in the company of self. It helps to keep my sanity. Besides the fact projects are a must. Either way, alone but not lonely.

  18. Avatar
    labi

    Be alone, that is the secret of invention;
    Be alone, that is when ideas are born.
    NIKOLA TESLA

  19. Avatar
    Antonio Villalpando

    Kanazawa’s obsession with intelligence (and with taking selfies with blonde women – browse his webpage at LSE if you don’t believe me) tends to be overrated. He is clearly unconfortable with his penis size, so he devotes his life to study that particular attribute he’s been told he posseses (excuse me if I express myself incorrectly; I’m not a native speaker, I’m Mexican). Nevertheless, this observation totally matches my lifestyle. My IQ is around 150 (wechsler’s), but I’ve never felt unconfortable with other people, or impeded to match any social setting. Some people are intelligent, others are not, just as some people is very handsome or beautiful and others do not or not so much. Intelligence is similar to height or beauty: you can’t be proud of it, you were born like that, you just got lucky. However, I guess this study just nailed it in a particular aspect. Something that makes me feel absolutely unconfortable is to be interrupted while I’m thinking, an activity that I undertake several times a day. When someoen pops up and starts telling me about their diet or about the climate it almost feels like pain inside my skull. So I isolate to avoid interruptions, not people. People are funny and interesting in their own way no matter how smart or dumb they are, but the dumbest tend to throw an overwhelming amount of useless information at you.

  20. Avatar
    Brandon

    The only reason stay with family and friends is usually because they enjoy spending time, not out of duty. For smart people, they can also pursue their own happiness outside of family and friend interactions, however, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy spending time with their families. If you really wanted to stretch the “foresight”, then you could also say they want to make their family or friend relationship stronger. Everyone should have a fair amount of free time alone and together with someone. Anyone who is decently self-caring or “smart” should know this. Honestly to me, just do what you feel is best.

  21. Avatar
    bobby

    When we allow ourselves to lose our self-centeredness due to excessive socializing, we may become entangled with problems that others can only solve for themselves and keep us from focusing on our own selves. I find this evident in the current texting and messaging phenomenon. The ancient idea of “know yourself” is steadily drowning in the mass of information and communication which allows no time to contemplate or meditate. Many times I have had to stop looking outside myself, as I was becoming involved with the criticism of others and becoming agitated. Presenting ideas in an open forum is inspiring, but when the forum involves others more concerned with criticizing instead of comparing ideas, I will always choose to forego the experience and be alone. Nothing to do with intelligence.

  22. Avatar
    Simon

    I argue that “Intelligent-people” don’t prefer being on their own, but it is preferable to being with stupid-people. Unfortunately, the majority of the population are stupid. Socialising feels good, but only when it is with the right group of people. The smarter you are, the harder it is to find the right group of people. No one likes to think of themselves as stupid, but rest assured, to someone, you are. Clever people actually use their brains and whilst this means that they may have interests and activities that require alone-time, it doesn’t replace the desire to socialise. However, a clever persons idea of socalising tends to be very different from the accepted norm. AKA getting pissed.

  23. Avatar
    Ava Lissik

    My sister has a high IQ. She adapts well to social situations, so that is her saving grace when it comes to socializing with peers at i.e. parties, bars… But I do notice that she has a hard time making small talk with friends and family, because she wants to talk about things like – what happens to the energy in our bodies when we die or what do you think about micro expressions or what are your thoughts on secularism? So, yeah, most people don’t want to talk about deep ‘things’ – the only ‘things’ that seem to interest her. Plus she’s a bit eccentric, but she’s attractive so that offsets her oddness. I think she likes to be alone a little too much, so I always try to engage her. She spends most of her time with her pets and studying all sorts of things that are truly too stressful for a normal mind ponder – she seriously gives me a headache sometimes. She does get pretty melancholy when she’s alone too long, but she says she finds friendships too time consuming and tedious. She’s also very over analytical, so she has to take anti-anxiety medication. But she still has to spend a lot of time doing yoga, exercising, and meditating because the medication only helps her so much. I’m in awe of her mind but I do not envy it because of the things she feels so compelled to learn about also seem to take a toll on her emotionally sometimes.

  24. Avatar
    Harish Naidu

    I agree with this topic because I have experienced all of this and still going through it.
    I use to ask myself is it right to ignore people because I have seen a sudden change within me, I don’t like to waste my time talking to friends and family instead I need someone whom I can talk about what I desire the most (you know what I mean) how to acquire it, how to use are brain to achieve what all we desire in life what is the purpose of our life!

  25. Avatar
    Sumaiya Atique

    i love spending time alone, and reading and studying on my own….people and conversation distract me….and also noise….I like to chat on messenger rather than talking face to face…..

  26. Avatar
    Amy

    I wouldn’t necessarily say we are better off alone, but that we are more content or prefer alone time. 🙂

  27. Avatar
    Maurya

    I don’t like to talk much.I often get bored with people.

  28. Avatar
    Jana

    And who says how intelligence is defined? There are many different forms of intelligence… logical mathematical, musical, naturalist, existential, emotional…
    Maybe its true that some types of intelligence make smart people feel uncomfortable or uneasy with others. Although I believe that people, good talks, fun, and experiences shared, give a lot of energy. It makes you feel more alive. And it’s teaches you how to love yourself.

  29. Avatar
    Luis

    It depends how one measures intelligence as it is subject to interpretation. In addition, how good a judge of character is the individual? They may have awful friends yet think of them as normal!
    If the test subjects are smart they will have made friends they can bounce ideas off and create an environment in which they can flourish. To achieve greatness one needs to be able to ask for help when one needs it! Rather than blame their lack of social skills on people being distraction along their path to success.
    The individual may have a mild form of autism giving them intense focus but struggle with social interactions.
    I’m half asleep so I’ll finish: my point is there are no absollutes, their are many variables that aren’t being taken into account.
    If honestly you believe you’re a genius it’s highly unlikely but it’s nice that you have confidence. Just try to research things before sharing your opinions for your own sake if not for others

    1. Avatar
      Luis

      There*

  30. Avatar
    Simon

    I can’t speak for intelligent people, but I find “Socializing” with stupid-people incredibly boring and awkward. You have to pretend to find their jokes funny, even though you’ve already worked out a suitable punchline.
    You have to talk about boring things such as football.
    You have to tread on eggshells with what you say and the words you use because a stupid-person will accuse you of being pretentious (Although they won’t use that word, they’ll just get angry) before conceding that it is they that are ignorant.
    Stupid people don’t know they are stupid and as a result tend to be arrogant and opinionated. However, due to lacking any reasoning skills, arguing with them is a waste of time. They’ll either talk over your counter-argument, or leave the room in a huff. Do intelligent people LIKE being on their own? Probably not, its just preferable to being in the company of stupid-people. Presumably in some way beyond my comprehension, I am just as annoying to a really intelligent person as a stupid person is to me.

  31. Avatar
    pat

    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

    1. Avatar
      Shekes

      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?

  32. Avatar
    Heini Hämäinen

    “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?

    1. Avatar
      NPC

      yep, correlation isn’t the same as causation.

  33. Avatar
    T

    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.

    1. Avatar
      Victor Sarkisov

      Write code? What language do you write in?

  34. Avatar
    Beatriz

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

  35. Avatar
    Mark

    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.

    1. Avatar
      Duke Skystalker

      I agree.

      You would think that the most intelligent people can manage their intellectual pursuits and their social lives.

  36. Avatar
    Qt

    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.

  37. Avatar
    Patrick Dieter

    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!

    1. Avatar
      Mark

      This is quite a paradox. We spend our whole pubescent lives trying to “fit in”. Who would have thought that someone with a high IQ would have trouble with that?
      I’ve taken probably near 100 “IQ” tests just for fun (yep, I like tests), I average between 140-160, depending on the test. I’m an extrovert, class-clown type. At least that’s what I choose to show the world.
      Internally I overanalyze the crap out of everything. I know first hand how vapid and mundane typical small talk is. I would love to find just one person with whom I could have strong cerebral interaction.
      Many average thinkers believe that being hyper intelligent would be a dream. Well, I’m here to tell you that it can be awfully lonely in a crowded room.

  38. Avatar
    Mike Martin

    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.

  39. Avatar
    Kyle

    I often look around at others (who most “intellectuals” would consider inept or lacking in some sort of intellectual way) …and find myself in envy. Not because I want their life, but because it seems the world tends to coddle and help in everyway to those who are “stupid”, and expects everything from those who show a shred of smarts and does nothing in return mostly(personal experiences..)…I’m fucking over it honestly. I feel I am either better off alone or with a few other intellectuals to hold conversations or debates. I like to be questioned, I enjoy the opinions of others (especially if it can get us riled up and into the debate). I LOVE LOVE LOOOOVE to be proven wrong and I hated being the one people look to for answers, hence why I have no friends. I chose to work on my journey rather than worrying about accumulating a shit ton of Facebook fakes. It’s lonely but hey, its way less frustrating than being everyone’s everything. Im personally going through some revelations I’ve been having about the facts behind why my parents even had me in the first place and man does it suck being able to analyze the actions of the people who “had” you, before, they even had you. Basically my mom had me so someone would be on this planet that HAS to love her after all her failed relationships and terrible childhood. And my father only had a kid because at the time of my conception, he was having chest pains and thought he was going to die. So being the “ohhh so smart” man HE is, only got my mother pregnant so someone would pass on his name. I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to find myself on a planet, that under any other “normal” intelligent decision making….that I wouldn’t actually be here. I guess I can thank stupidity for my life. Without it, my stupid parents would’ve never had me. …..Wow, that’s fucked

  40. Avatar
    Stallnig

    Being lonely means that one doesn’t feel satisfied with his social situation, or more precisely, feels the lack of meaningful connections to other individuals. It is the equivalent of hunger or thirst for social needs. Being intelligent doesn’t rid a person of social needs. Intelligent people might assign more value to higher level needs, like self actualisation, but it is said, that one can only be as happy, as the lowest level need left unsatisfied. Also no quantity of any substitute can eventually satisfy a need. (Like eating against fatigue. You can delay it, but eventually your body needs to rest.)
    The more intelligent a person is, the more selective of their peers for this fulfillment they tend to be, and at the same time, the amount of people existing with the same or higher level of intelligence decreases, the higher one stands on the scale, which reduces the odds of encountering them. (It is not necessarily the same level of “intelligence” people seek in others, but rather the same “mindset”, but that is to some degree correlating with a persons intelligence. Like an interest in deep philosophy or highly scientific stuff only arises, once one is able to understand it.)
    Intelligent people are often misunderstood by less intelligent ones, and therefor get to be missjudged and discriminated.
    This most prominently occures at child age, with classmates, but also with their own parents. Early signs of that is introversion, which is a defense mechanism. Such children need to be treated even more carefully, which is usually even more difficult for their parents. They are prone to acquire social deficits, maybe never reaching social maturity, usually resulting in social anxiety, causing them to distance them selfs from other people instinktively. Their need for security is overpowering thier social needs.

  41. Avatar
    Abiy

    I agree

  42. Avatar
    Dumber-er

    I’m as dumb as a bag of rocks. My IQ is probably in the low 70s. It takes me much longer to learn new things. I’m Ok with this, because people have very few expectations from me. I like being alone, and I think that being average/below average is a gift that not many others appreciate. I like surprising myself and others with what I can do, and if I can’t do something or if it takes me longer to do something I don’t beat myself up over it. I just keep plugging along at my own pace. I think highly intelligent people are usually pretty lazy, because everything comes too easily to them. When something is hard or if they have to overcome an obstacle, they roll over and quit or they half ass it. It is a rare exception for people to be both ambitious and highly intelligent.

    1. Avatar
      Tina

      I agree with you in part. My IQ is a 141 and I work a blue collar job. There are things that attributed to my underachievement in my younger years, some of them out of my control,some of them just laziness. It took me until after I had 2 children to really want to go somewhere in life but by then I just didn’t have the time to be able to accomplish it. I do like to be alone, I do feel let down by most people in terms of meaningful conversation, but more than anything I feel let down by myself because because I know I could’ve been more. What I know is that your desire to achieve, to learn from your mistakes, and overcome adversity, is more important than raw intelligence any day- and I commend you for realizing your own strengths and weaknesses and loving yourself for both!

  43. Avatar
    Llyn

    I am always amused when reading how people without a particular quality (eg intelligence, wealth, etc.) try to (characteristically) describe, explain, moralize or otherwise pretend to understand something they know nothing about. Like most things in life, having the actual experience of something, especially for years and years, is usually far different than the imagination of one without any true direct experience. Anyway, I am blown away by the theory. I believe it’s dead on – especially the part about population density preferences. An uncommonly insightful contribution to the field…but I would love to read how “self-important, tradition-focused” academicians tear this apart;-)

  44. Avatar
    Ry

    A bunch of know it alls comment on the same article??? You’re not that smart, cookie.

Leave a Reply