A new research paper authored by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, whose writing has been described as “pseudoscience” and “racist nonsense” by the Guardian, and Norman Li of Singapore Management University, hosted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, suggests that smart people may be happier with fewer friends.
The paper, entitled “Country roads, take me home… to my friends: How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness,” examines a proposed “savanna theory of happiness” composed of both ancestral and current consequences affecting people’s overall satisfaction with their lives.
In 2011, Kanazawa authored an article, entitled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” which was less-than-enthusiastically received by just about everybody and was reported to be filled with aesthetically pleasing charts and statistics quoted to three decimal places. It was said to have been, at first, hastily edited before it was eventually taken down.
“In retrospect, I should have been more careful in selecting the title of the blog post and the language that I used to express my ideas,” an apology written by Kanazawa stated, as reported by the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Recent work studying ethnic composition, geographical location, and intelligence suggests that Satoshi Kanazawa’s curiosity with ethnography continues.
In the latest paper, Kanazawa and Li propose that there exists an “urban-rural happiness gradient,” as explained by City Lab, which demonstrates an overall higher level of happiness in rural areas than urban.
The theory is that the majority of people report feeling happier when they regularly encounter people they know and trust in their day-to-day lives, something that is easily achieved in a small town. Big cities, by contrast, force people to regularly encounter and make decisions about unfamiliar people. Combined with an increasing number of ways friends can contact each other on social media and mobile devices, those who have an evolutionary need, as they would on the “savanna,” to be part of a small, tight group feel stress.
Kanazawa and Li suggest that smarter people who have the ability to “jettison” the “hunter-gather” evolutionary urge, particularly if they’re working toward higher goals, are less affected by social interaction with others, as reported by the Washington Post.
Carol Graham, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, was quoted as stating that the findings of the paper are “no surprise,” and the idea that those with a higher intelligence and available resources would feel less of a need to make friends as they work toward long-term goals is plausible.
Graham did, however, note one potential flaw in Kanazawa’s and Li’s methodology, suggesting that levels of self-reported satisfaction, which the paper is reported to rely on, typically differ from “experienced well-being” indications, such as the number of times an individual reported laughing on a given day, or the number of instances of feeling angry.
“As if a world in which the images of the most beautiful have oscillated between Michelangelo’s Creation of Eve and Iman’s statuesque frame could ever have a rigid, scientific standard for ‘attractiveness.'”
“Pseudoscience and racism have a long history together,” the 2011 article with the Guardian on Kanazawa states, indicating a seeming high level of displeasure with the author and scientist. “Many people who read Kanazawa’s article were instantly reminded of Nazi claims to Aryan superiority.”
Guardian further went on to state that Kanazawa had “insulted” and “denigrated” black women globally and questioned the competence of the editors of Psychology Today. Five months after the publication of the Guardian article, Psychology Today printed Kanazawa’s apology. Mikhail Lyubansky wrote, “It’s not enough,” and reported that the scientist would be permitted to remain in his academic position.
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