The Strange Link Between Happiness & Intelligence

  November 27, 2017

“As intelligence goes up, happiness often goes down. Look, I made a graph.”

Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons, 2001

In fact - 21st Century research (Ali et al., 2013; Kern et al., 2008) informs us that the relationship between happiness and intelligence is likely to form a bell curve.

What encourages happiness?   

For the sake of this article, let us assume that if someone’s perfect, they’re happy, too...

In 4 BC, Philosopher Lao Tzu wrote: “The perfect man is selfless.”

People who are “selfless” think about others, more often than themselves.

In 2017, a group of researchers discovered that helping others (generosity) is hard-wired to our own happiness, through the neural pathways inside our brain. (Park et al. 2017)

The reverse is also true: Many clinical psychologists believe that an adult who thinks or speaks about themselves too often is prone to narcissism, and other mental health issues. 

However - talking to, or about yourself regularly improves brain function. (Lupyan et al., 2011)

As skill goes up, friendliness often goes down...

In 2002, Susan Fiske and three other researchers published the Stereotype Content Model.

The study found that - when someone meets someone else for the first time - they’re likely to be perceived as either “warm” or “competent”.

We might assume that:

  • Competence (skill) is similar to intelligence.

  • Warmth (friendly behaviour) is similar to happiness.

We might also consider that competency is a way to develop your own life, while warmth is more likely to develop the lives of others. 

It seems that the best way to be happy is to give more than you’re able to take.

Saving your technical skill (competence) only for conflict and competition.

In times of conflict and competition, there’s opposition - so we must show skill and adapt.

After all, what generates more warmth than winning.

“Shared joys make a friend, shared sufferings do not.” - Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886