The Savanna Theory of Happiness

 

shutterstock_271118789Want to be happier? Simple: If you’re smart, dump some of your friends and move somewhere else. From Wonkblog in the Washington Post:

Hell might actually be other people — at least if you’re really smart. That’s the implication of fascinating new research published last month in the British Journal of Psychology. Evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University dig in to the question of what makes a life well-lived …

Kanazawa and Li theorize that the hunter-gatherer lifestyles [on the savanna] of our ancient ancestors form the foundation for what make us happy now. “Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today,” they write.

Meaning what? First, move somewhere lonelier:

[T]hey find that people who live in more densely populated areas tend to report less satisfaction with their life overall. “The higher the population density of the immediate environment, the less happy” the survey respondents said they were. Second, they find that the more social interactions with close friends a person has, the greater their self-reported happiness.

Unless you’re smart:

“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 found. And “more intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently.”

Let me repeat that last one: When smart people spend more time with their friends, it makes them less happy.

I have a hard time accepting this. Because, hey, I’m smart. And I like spending time with my friends. I guess it makes sense that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in small communities, and that these instincts remain, somewhere, in our brain-behavior centers. But why then do smart people not react the same way? They have a theory:

If you’re smarter and more able to adapt to things, you may have an easier time reconciling your evolutionary predispositions with the modern world. So living in a high-population area may have a smaller effect on your overall well-being — that’s what Kanazawa and Li found in their survey analysis. Similarly, smarter people may be better-equipped to jettison that whole hunter-gatherer social network — especially if they’re pursuing some loftier ambition.

Like this one.

There are 29 comments.

  1. Member

    And so we join our host for today’s edition of “what would James do to get you to join?”

    Rob is so proud of himself for this one.

    No. I didn’t see it coming.

    • #1
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:16 am
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  2. Member

    I see what you did there.

    • #2
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:16 am
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  3. Contributor

    Now I understand the source of my persistent misery: other people.

    • #3
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:24 am
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  4. Inactive

    Majestyk:Now I understand the source of my persistent misery: other people.

    Man, they are the worst aren’t they?

    • #4
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:26 am
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  5. Member

    How do they know our hunter gatherer ancestors were happy? Did they find a survey painted in a cave? That seems like major guesswork there. Or am I misunderstanding how they came to their conclusion?

    • #5
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:27 am
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  6. Member

    I for one prefer the Savannah theory of happiness. I use my superior brain power to procure as much grits and BBQ as I can.

    • #6
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:27 am
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  7. Member

    … on the one hand, that is complete nonsense.

    On the other hand, I don’t really have many friends around here (most of my good friends live in other states), and my wife and I virtually never socialize.

    So yeah, it’s probably because I’m just so smart!

    (of course, that could explain why big cities always vote democrat)

    • #7
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:30 am
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  8. Inactive

    Want to wager whether the results would be the same for “smart introverts” and “smart extroverts?”

    • #8
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:36 am
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  9. Member

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Exit

    • #9
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:37 am
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  10. Member

    Absolutely, no doubt about it, I really hate to see another fisherman on the river and am happier when I move up stream. And it makes me less happy if the trout are smarter than I am and, no matter how many flies I have, they’re never just the right color, or if just right, they’re old and beat up like me..

    • #10
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:56 am
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  11. Member

    I like Savannah. Lovely city. My sister lives there with her husband. They seem happy.

    • #11
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:22 am
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  12. Thatcher

    It is not other people who are an issue, it is other people who are stupid who are the issue.

    Kinda like the difference between normal Internet and Ricochet.

    • #12
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:32 am
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  13. Inactive

    Well, there are other explanations, Rob, for why you have a different experience from most smart people:

    “…Except for bipolar disorder, individuals with overall creative professions were not more likely to suffer from investigated psychiatric disorders than controls. However, being an author was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse…”

    You could be nuts. ;)

    (My emphasis.)

    • #13
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:39 am
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  14. Inactive

    Does someone assume that “smart” for hunter-gatherers would have been the same as smart today?

    • #14
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:44 am
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  15. Inactive

    Israel P.:Does someone assume that “smart” for hunter-gatherers would have been the same as smart today?

    It’s a pretty safe assumption. We were all hunter-gatherers not very long ago, there hasn’t been that much change in humans.

    Given that average brain size has declined since then, it’s entirely possible that they were smarter.

    • #15
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:46 am
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  16. Member

    Don’t tell me, is there is a scientific consensus behind this theory? The debate is over….

    • #16
    • March 23, 2016 at 9:48 am
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  17. Member

    How Aspergery are those smart people?

    • #17
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:08 am
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  18. Member

    I’ve often thought I might be happier moving to an isolated cabin in a sparsely-populated state, like Ted Kaczynski did. Upon further reflection, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

    • #18
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:10 am
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  19. Inactive

    drlorentz:I’ve often thought I might be happier moving to an isolated cabin in a sparsely-populated state, like Ted Kaczynski did. Upon further reflection, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

    Yeah. The contrary indicator to the theory in the OP is that the suicide rates are far higher in less populated states.

    • #19
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:20 am
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  20. Thatcher

    Tuck:

    Israel P.:Does someone assume that “smart” for hunter-gatherers would have been the same as smart today?

    It’s a pretty safe assumption. We were all hunter-gatherers not very long ago, there hasn’t been that much change in humans.

    Given that average brain size has declined since then, it’s entirely possible that they were smarter.

    Brain size and smarts are not correlated in humans. “Smart” people appear to use their brains more efficiently to solve problems. In other words, on a brain scan, there are less calories being used to solve problems.

    Basically, what most of us call smart boils down to problem solving and the ability to cope with novelty.

    • #20
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:23 am
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  21. Inactive

    Bryan G. Stephens: Brain size and smarts are not correlated in humans.

    OK, then a simple question for you: why did humans evolve larger brains?

    • #21
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:26 am
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  22. Member

    The worst people in the world are dumb extroverts. I’m sure those are exactly the people Sartre was thinking of.

    • #22
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:28 am
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  23. Inactive

    I read the paragraph that stated people dislike high density in their immediate areas but enjoy being around close friends, I was like “yeah, that’s totally me!”

    ……unless you’re smart.

    .__.

    • #23
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:35 am
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  24. Member

    If you have a lot rattling around in your head, you probably want time to figure it out rather than spending time gossiping and the like.

    When I was younger and had the time, I liked going on long car rides alone, in part, to clear out my mind.

    • #24
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:37 am
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  25. Thatcher

    Tuck:

    Bryan G. Stephens: Brain size and smarts are not correlated in humans.

    OK, then a simple question for you: why did humans evolve larger brains?

    Bigger Brains in relation to body size is what is important. The encephalization quotient is important, but not the end all and be all. Among primates , this appears to break down. There is some evidence that Homo Neandertals had larger brains than our own, but with less surface area. (It looks like all those folds are important).

    So, intelligence is complex and not just brain size.

    • #25
    • March 23, 2016 at 10:38 am
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  26. Member

    When I was a kid in school we learned about an experiment where rats were kept in high-density or low-density cages. The high-density environment caused much more stress for the rats. It made me glad to live in the suburbs rather than the city.

    And it made me wonder why the left is always trying to put people in high-density housing, make us travel in trains, etc. I like having my own space.

    • #26
    • March 23, 2016 at 2:01 pm
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  27. Inactive

    You can be smarter and better socialized if you quit reading anything by evolutionary psychologists and evolutionary sociologists. Everything they have to say is from their own guesswork, and they are very proud of their work.

    • #27
    • March 23, 2016 at 6:00 pm
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  28. Member

    DrewInWisconsin: The worst people in the world are dumb extroverts. I’m sure those are exactly the people Sartre was thinking of.

    You are right on. They have to talk about everything even though they have nothing to say.

    • #28
    • March 23, 2016 at 8:02 pm
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  29. Member

    Henry Castaigne:

    DrewInWisconsin: The worst people in the world are dumb extroverts. I’m sure those are exactly the people Sartre was thinking of.

    You are right on. They have to talk about everything even though they have nothing to say.

    And so to camouflage this fault,they go into politics.

    • #29
    • March 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm
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