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Guest Thinkers

Why Intelligent People Do Weird Things

Smart people have long had a history of quirky and inexplicable habits: Nietzsche wound up hugging horses, Freud couldn’t kick a drug addiction, Nikola Tesla adored white pigeons and loathed pearls, and the list goes on. The explanation for this extends beyond the somewhat romantic notion of an intrinsic link between genius and insanity: humans have been evolutionarily wired to do certain “natural” things, and it takes a heightened intelligence to stray from the norm and form novel solutions to life’s problems. As today’s guest, Satoshi Kanazawa, explains, there are a number of beliefs and everyday activities that we can associate with an evolutionarily unique intellect, from atheism, political liberalism and homosexuality, to staying up all night.

Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist and professor at the London School of Economics, has mastered the art of confounding conventional wisdom and feel-good advice with the hard facts of life (he writes the Scientific Fundamentalist blog, offering a ” A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature,” for Psychology Today). He explains, for example, why stereotypes and first appearances (despite your second grade teacher’s warnings) are actually reliable, noting that nasty people do, indeed, look nasty. He also explains why women are becoming more attractive than men, the math behind why urbanites have a hard time dating, and why human psychology hasn’t really budged since our hunter-gatherer days.


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