Why Smart People Do Weird Things
Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist and intelligence researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is Reader in Management at LSE as well as Honorary Research Fellow in Psychology at Birkbeck College University of London. He has written over 90 articles and chapters in psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology, biology, and medicine. His latest book is The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One (Wiley, 2012).
Question: Why do intelligent men tend to go against the grain?
Satoshi Kanazawa: My theory is that not just intelligent men, but intelligence evolved to deal with and solve evolutionarily novel problems. Human nature consists of various psychological adaptations to solve all the familiar problems that our ancestors dealt with. We have modules for mating. We have modules for parenting. All those things that our ancestors did all the time doesn’t require intelligence. We know what to do when it comes to mating. We know what to do when it comes to parenting and learning a language associated with other people. All these things our ancestors did already have ready-made solutions in our brain, but occasionally there are novel problems that required our ancestors to think and that’s how intelligence evolves. Some people who could think and reason and solve these evolutionary novel problems did better occasionally, so my contention is that intelligence evolved to deal with novel problems and as a result more intelligent people are more likely to recognize evolutionarily novel entities and situations. As a result they become more likely to adopt these novel preferences and values like sexual exclusivity for men or atheism or liberalism, so what… The key part of the equation is that intelligence leads individuals to seek novel solutions and as a result they become more likely to adopt novel preferences and values, so intelligence makes people do unnatural things.
Question: Why are night owls generally more intelligent?
Question: What other unnatural activities do highly intelligent people engage in?
Satoshi Kanazawa: My last paper I also showed that more intelligent people are more likely to be atheists and it has nothing to do with whether or not God actually exists. It’s because once again believing in God in natural. Humans are designed to be religious. Humans are designed to believe in higher powers that cause natural events and as a result more intelligent people are more like to reject that natural tendency to attribute causality to natural phenomenon and then become atheist.
Question: Do intelligent people display any other unnatural behaviors?
Satoshi Kanazawa: The third part of the paper was that more intelligent men, but not more intelligent women are more likely to value sexual exclusivity because once again humans are polygynous. Humans are naturally polygynous, which means that throughout evolutionary history men had multiple mates, whereas women always had one mate in their stable relationships, so it was unnatural for ancestral men to limit their mating to one partner, whereas it was always natural for women to do so and therefore, more intelligent men today are more like to reject that natural state of polygyny and value sexual exclusivity, whereas intelligence doesn’t affect women’s tendency to value sexual exclusivity, but that does not mean as some newspaper reported, that more… men who cheat are less intelligent. My study is about values and preferences, what inside their head. It’s not about their behavior and if I have to predict, probably more intelligent men are more likely to cheat because more intelligent men tend to acquire greater status and resources and as a result more intelligent men are more desirable and when it comes to mating what men want has nothing to do with it. It’s all about what women want and if women want to have sex with a more intelligent man because they are more desirable then that is what is going to happen, so I would predict even though I have no data, I would predict that more intelligent men who have higher status and greater resources are probably more likely to have affairs than less intelligent men, despite to fact that they don’t want to.
Intelligent people create novel solutions to problems—a fact that has resulted in a rich history of smart people picking up eccentric values and habits.