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.
Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less