A recently published study has claimed that smart people are happier when they are completely alone, and not when they are surrounded by close friends.
Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics and Political Science researchers, Norman P. Li and Satoshi Kanazawa, were investigating the “savannah theory” of happiness when they made the new discoveries.
The savannah theory suggests that people react to their circumstances in the same way that their ancestors would, after having evolved psychologically based on their ancestors needs during their time, when humankind lived on the savannah.
The study used interviews with 15,197 people aged between 18 and 28, which was originally conducted by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health in 2001-2002. The researchers then looked for links between whether the interviewee lived in a rural or urban environment, and that individual’s satisfaction of life.
Following this initial analysis, the researchers were particularly interested in assessing how population density of an individual’s environment and their friendships affected their happiness.
They found that high populated areas strongly reduce people’s happiness, which supports the savannah theory which claims that people would feel naturally uncomfortable in groups of over 150 people, as evidence suggests that our brains have evolved for functioning in a group this size.
There are numerous pieces of evidence that support the 150 theory, including computer simulations which show that the evolution of risk aversion only takes place in groups of around 150 people (Hintze, Olson, Adami, & Hertwig, 2013), the average hunter-gatherer societies are 148.4 people (Dunbar, 1993), and the average personal network is 153.5 people (Hill & Dunbar, 2003).
Li and Kanazawa understand that by looking back to the savannah, we can understand that friendships were vital for survival, during a time when group hunting and food sharing were necessary, as well as reproduction and group child-rearing. The data which was analysed by the researchers therefore shows that fewer but high quality friendships significantly increase life satisfaction for the majority of people.
Whilst it is understood through analysis that this is due to people’s psychological needs, including a need to be needed and an outlet for sharing personal experiences, there is no real evidence which concludes why a person has those needs.
However, contrary to this, a few discoveries were made which were highly contradictory.
Whilst it was found that intelligent people feel happier when they are completely alone than when they are socialising, even with good friends, and a once-assumed “healthy”social life leaves them with less life satisfaction, it was also concluded that spending time socialising with friends is an indicator of higher intelligence.
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