There are a few things in life that are almost guaranteed to make you happy. Dancing in the rain, going for a hike or spending time with a few good friends—to name a few. Unless, of course, you’re really, really, smart.
According to a paper published in the British Journal of Psychology, intelligent people experience lower life satisfaction when they socialize with friends more frequently. Normal Li and Satoshi Kanazawa believe that for a very intelligent few, happiness is more likely when you have enough time alone.
To come to this conclusion, Li and Kanazawa analyzed the survey responses of 15,197 participants between the ages of 18 and 28 as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The survey is designed to measure life satisfaction, intelligence, and health. Analysis of the data revealed some pretty surprising results. For most people, dense crowds of people lead to unhappiness, but spending time with good friends gives it a boost. Those results change if the person is highly intelligent.
Li and Kanazawa believe this is part of the savanna theory of happiness or the idea that life satisfaction is not only determined by what’s happening in the present but also influenced by the ways our ancestors may have reacted to the event. This idea of evolutionary psychology argues that the human brain has been designed for and adapted to the conditions of an ancestral environment—just like any other organ. Therefore, our brains struggle to comprehend situations that would have been unfamiliar to our ancestors.
Two major differentiators between ancestral and modern life are population density and how frequently humans socialize with their friends. Exceptionally smart people tend to be impacted less by these differences.
“In general, more intelligent individuals are more likely to have ‘unnatural’ preferences and values that our ancestors did not have,” Kanazawa tells Inverse. “It is extremely natural for species like humans to seek and desire friendships, and as a result, more intelligent individuals are likely to seek them less.”
These unnatural preferences also lead intelligent people to be more comfortable in urban settings. Historically, people tended to live comfortably in groups of about 150. While densely packed urban centers could bring about isolation for some, intelligent people tend to thrive.
Intelligent people are also less likely to feel that they benefited from friendships. Some do, interestingly, socialize more than less intelligent people. This could be related to the fact that intelligence likely evolved as a psychological mechanism to solve problems that weren’t present in the days of our ancestors.
Of course, this relationship doesn’t imply that the opposite is also true (if you enjoy being around your friends you’re unintelligent). But it does indicate that the intelligent people you know who isolate themselves could very likely be making a conscience choice based on their own preferences.