Research: Smart People Require More Alone Time

November 29, 2016 5:00 am
A male hiker looks towards the sunset from an Atlantic cliff.
A hiker watches the the sunset alone from an Atlantic cliff. (Getty Images)


Let’s face it: The lonely life is hard on human beings. (It’s one of the reasons why solitary confinement has been found to be so damaging to prisoners.) But do people actually require some time alone? Is a little bit of isolation essential to mental health, particularly for individuals considered “smart”?

A team of evolutionary psychologists from Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics and Political Science studied more than 15,000 young adults to come up with an answer. They determined that, in general, the more contact people have with other people, the happier they become. Yet there was one notable exception.

People of the highest intelligence tended to become less happy when socializing. (Paradoxically, it was also reported that they spent quite a bit of time with others, something that would have been enviable to all other groups, but not to them.)

Two theories have been put forward to explain this tendency. One is that the most intelligent people are the most aspirational. On some level, they view time spent “hanging out” as time that could have been better utilized elsewhere. The other: Evolution has led smart people to assume they don’t need anyone else. As a result, they don’t see the point in enjoying the company of others. (Of course, networking has always been a key to success, suggesting that smart people may not be as clever as they believe.)

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