Those who like spending time alone are smarter and more evolved humans, study finds

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Amy Lewis

Do you love nothing more that heading out with a big group of friends? Are you in your element after a get together with the full squad? Or is alone time the key to your happiness?

While the FOMO (fear of missing out) vs JOMO (joy of missing out) debate rages on via Instagram posts, status updates and fierce hashtagging, two scientists have found that actually, the level of social interaction you enjoy might reveal more about your intelligence level, than it does about your coolness.

Satoshi Kanazawa, of the London School of Economics, and Norman Li, of Singapore Management University, measured the level of happiness 15,000 people of varying IQ levels experienced, when socialising heavily with friends compared with spending time alone.

Alone time reading book and drinking tea

Kanazawa and Li found that while people living in areas of dense population were less happy on average than those living in more sparse communities, spending increased time with friends gave most of the participants greater feelings of joy and ‘life satisfaction’.

But when they homed in on those with extremely high IQs, they found the opposite was true. They reported low levels of happiness and life satisfaction when spending an increased amount of time socialising, much preferring to be alone.

The findings, say the researchers, are revealing of how our brains may have adapted to accommodate more modern ways of living.

Group of female friends

Basing their research on ‘the savanna theory of happiness’, the pair theorise that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our ancient ancestors still forms a foundation for what make us happy today.

Life on the African savanna, for example, would have been starkly different to city life. It’s thought people would have lived in widely dispersed groups of around 150 people, and that socialising among your own tribe would have been crucial for survival both in terms of food gathering and reproduction.

It’s these principles on which Kanazawa and Li base their conclusions.

While the majority of people still find happiness from the same things - having a close-knit group within which they can socialise, and enjoying more more sprawling living spaces - the researchers believe that those with a higher IQ have actually evolved beyond these needs.

Woman alone reading book in library

As modern demands and lifestyles have changed, they argue, so too have the brains and requirements of the ‘extremely intelligent’.

“More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems,” they write, “may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations.”

In other words, according to Kanazawa and Li, intelligent people prefer spending time alone because their brains have been better at letting go of ancestral habits, and have adapted to newer, more modern lifestyles.

That's one more win for the JOMO clan, then.


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Amy Lewis

Amy Lewis is a freelance writer and editor, a lover of strong tea, equally strong eyebrows, a collector of facial oils and a cat meme enthusiast. She covers everything from beauty and fashion to feminism and travel.

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