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Do Smart People Make Good Friends?

We all need friends, don't we?

Recent research suggests that our IQ, or intelligence quotient, might be related to our “SQ,” or social intelligence, depending on how close we fall towards the top of the IQ continuum. Most of us already know that there are a lot of factors that predict how happy we end up feeling in life. These run the gamut from inborn personality traits to life stage and environmentally determined factors.


Our annual income is usually a good predictor of our life satisfaction, but this relationship usually tops out at about $75,000 a year. This means that once a person reaches that particular income threshold, they will be as happy overall as someone earning even twice that or more. Just because your younger sibling outearns you doesn't mean that she is any happier in life than you are!


Marriage is also a predictor of happiness, so long as it’s a relatively happy marriage, of course. Men are also the gender that seem to exhibit a higher level of relationship-connected satisfaction with life.

Social Support Networks?

Strong social networks, too, have been identified as indicators of life satisfaction. In fact, simply feeling that you belong to a social group enhances your level of self-esteem.

However, a new study by Li and Kanazawa, published in the British Journal of Psychology, has revealed an interesting new twist on the social network equation.

Is Ideal Social Circle Size a Function of Intelligence?

For folks who are more intelligent than the average person, it turns out that less is more. The smartest folks report the greatest life satisfaction when they are free to spend time on their own doing whatever their brilliant minds are driving them to do. Hanging out with friends seldom is a top priority. Highly intelligent individuals are also much more at ease living in highly densely populated cities; they don't seem to be bothered by the relative anonymity that comes with the isolated existence that big city living can bring.

Survival Insurance and the Buddy System

This new finding is presumed to reflect an evolutionary update. While most of us rely on social cooperation to succeed in life as our Paleo ancestors once were required to do, those among us with highly nimble and forward-thinking brains have been able to adapt to our modern world more effectively. Highly intelligent humans have apparently evolved out of these patterns and adapt to cultural and technological advances more rapidly. They independently chart new paths into the vast unknown forgoing the “buddy system” that most of us prefer.

The smartest of the tribe are charting the path into the unknown for themselves and others. Unlike the rest of us whose social behaviors still echo the patterns ingrained into human behavior as “survival insurance” for thousands of years, highly intelligent folks are blazing the trail that we will follow. However, it is probably likely that smart people are able to intentionally craft the social connections that they would most value when they recognize their need for them.

If you find yourself preferring the company of your own self above that of others and you would rather spend time alone than hanging out with friends, don’t let people give you grief – just let them know it’s a sign of superior intelligence and let it go at that.


Li, N. P., & Kanazawa, S. (2016). Country roads, take me home . . . to my friends: How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness. British Journal of Psychology, 2016 Feb 4. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12181.


How are your adult sibling relationships working out?

Some of us learn about friendships through our early relationships with siblings. If you are still working through sibling drama or enjoying sibling harmony, please share your stories here: