People Who Are More Intelligent Tend To Have Fewer Friends, According To Research

You're not unpopular, you're just highly intelligent.

woman in striped sweater at home Larisa Kruchina / Pexels

As we grow older, we may tend to have fewer friendships than we used to. And that's okay, because growing and learning sometimes means leaving people behind.

As a result, we may find ourselves feeling like loners to some extent, not wanting to go out into the world or surround ourselves by other people. Perhaps even our friend group is small and tight. But that may actually be a good thing.

According to research, intelligent people tend to have fewer friends.

A 2016 study published in the British Journal of Psychology says smarter people do better with a smaller number of friends.


Lead researchers, Satoshi Kanazawa and Norman Li, evolutionary psychologists in England, found that, while most people's happiness increased in relation to a decrease in population density (as well has a high percentage of interactions with loved ones), people who are extremely intelligent are actually happier when they're not hanging out with friends.

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The study explores "the savanna theory of happiness," which says that "due to evolutionary constraints on the human brain, situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors' happiness may still increase our happiness today, and those that would have decreased their happiness then may still decrease ours today."

According to the research, this "explains why rural Americans tend to be happier than their urban counterparts, and why "More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends."

In short, people who live in rural areas report more life satisfaction, whereas people who live in densely populated urban areas report less satisfaction with life.

There's a main reason intelligent people prefer to spend their time not socializing.

Carol Graham, a Brookings Institute researcher who studies the economics of happiness, revealed to the Washington Post, "The findings 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."


Photo: Maria Orlova / Pexels

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Super-smart people usually have exciting new theories they want to prove or inventions they're working on that will change the world. These highly intelligent individuals don't want to spend their time socializing — they want to pursue their goals.


But there could be additional reasons for smart people not wanting to talk to others. Perhaps they don't enjoy drama, are just a bit socially awkward, prefer to steer clear of surface-level conversations, enjoy solitude, or are prioritizing their mental health.

No matter the reason why, the study suggests that the brains of our hunter-gatherer ancestors were perfectly adapted to life on the African savanna, where the population would have been scattered, with people living in groups of around 150 or so.



Social interaction would have been extremely important for survival, especially in terms of cooperation and finding a mate, but space would have been crucial too. The researchers believe there may be an incongruity between the way we've evolved and the quickly-paced lives we lead.


In short, the study highlights that intelligent individuals are better able to adapt to modern life, and they're not as tied to humanity's evolutionary predilections. This means they don't have as much of a need for social interaction.

So for people who only have a few friends or prefer to stay home instead of going out, don't worry. You're probably just really smart.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.