While the average person is happier with a large friend circle, new research reveals those with higher IQs are better off with a small one.
Evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University are the authors of this intriguing study published last month in the British Journal of Psychology, and they were driven to find out how friendship affects life satisfaction and overall happiness.
Digging into data from a long-term survey of 15,000 adults aged 18 to 28, Kanazawa and Li noticed two major trends. First of all, urban dwellers were generally less happy than those living in rural areas. Secondly, people reported higher life satisfaction with increased social interactions.
Using the "the savanna theory of happiness" to back up their research, the researchers hypothesized their findings are rooted in early man and the hunter-gather lifestyle that had people living in tribes, much more akin to small towns that big cities. "Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors' life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today," they wrote.
There was also one major finding in the study that threw the researchers for a loop: Highly intelligent people became less satisfied the more time they spend with friends.
"The effect of population density on life satisfaction was therefore more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals than for high-IQ individuals," they wrote. And "more intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently."
The Washington Post reached out to a Brookings Institution researcher who studies the economics of happiness to explain this anomaly.
"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," Carol Graham said.