The Fascinating Reason Intelligent People Socialize Less

If you’re a reasonably intelligent person, two things are probably true: you socialize less than your peers, and you worry about whether or not that’s normal, sane, and acceptable.

As the majority of us are already aware, because they are more perceptive than the average person, intelligent people tend to be more anxious than others and are also more likely to experience social anxiety. But as a recent study in the British Journal of Psychology has shown, this frequently goes even further: highly intelligent people actually prefer their own company, and there’s a pretty intriguing reason why.

The study explained that evolutionary psychologists have found a link between frequent social interaction and decreased life satisfaction in people who are generally more intelligent. They conducted a survey of adults between the ages of 18 and 28 and discovered that those who frequented more social gatherings with friends and those who lived in more densely populated areas reported lower levels of happiness.

The study puts forth the hypothesis that “savannah theory,” or the idea that the things that naturally make us happy are still true today as they were at the dawn of civilization, is at the core of contemporary happiness. It is believed that smarter people are better able to adapt to the challenges of modern life and are more willing to “leave the group” in order to pursue their own, more fulfilling lives.

Basically, socializing is less preferred by intelligent people because they do not require a sense of tribal identity to find meaning in their lives. In fact, they are the ones who are more inclined to choose their own path when given the option of “belonging” or pursuing their own interests.

This suggests that our hunter-gatherer brains were perfectly suited to the way of life that prevailed then, when there would have been a smaller population and we would have lived in groups of approximately 150 individuals each. For survival, social interaction would have been essential. An intelligent person is distinguished by their capacity for adaptation. In the past, a more advanced human would have been better able to trust their instincts; today, a more advanced human is better able to create their own future rather than simply following the herd.

This is supported by the fact that the “urban-rural happiness gradient,” which has been referred to as the fact that self-reported happiness is frequently higher in smaller towns than in larger cities. This could be caused by a variety of things, but most likely it’s because people thrive in more intimate settings with real connections.

There is a sense of belonging and community in small towns. Instead of feeling lost in the crowd in a larger city, you walk out to the deli in the morning and greet the same people. Similar to a larger city, a smaller town places more value on who you are and how you interact with others than on your accomplishments or outward appearance. The point still stands: smart people (and happy people!) thrive in a small number of close, sincere relationships. Intelligent people generally ignore this in favor of their own pursuits.