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Does smarter mean happier?

If you’re smarter than other people it won’t make you personally happier but the brightest nations score high on measures of happiness compared to countries with lower intellectual ranking, according to a study by Ruut Veenhoven of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Yowon Choi of the appropriately named Center for Happiness Studies at Seoul National University in South Korea.

Education is in one sense all about maximizing intelligence, but wondered Veenhoven and Choi, does it also impact on happiness? Do brighter students make happier citizens? The researchers explored the relationship between intelligence and happiness on two levels, the micro-level of individuals and the macro-level of nations. On the former, they looked at data from 23 studies and found no correlation between recorded IQ and measures of happiness in individuals. However, at the macro-level, they found a strong positive relationship among 143 nations between a higher average IQ across a country and a higher average happiness compared to those countries with below average IQ.

This, they suggest means that, the presence of many intelligent people boosts average happiness in the country, though these people themselves are not any happier.

Why is that? The authors suggests that intelligence adds to happiness only indirectly though its effects on society. People are happier in developed nations than in developing ones and the functioning of developed society requires an intelligent populace.

Why then are intelligent people themselves no happier than their less intelligent compatriots? The authors infer rather curiously that the cultivation of intelligence goes at some cost, such as the many years spent at school benches and what they refer to as the attendant one-sided development. They call for attention to this hidden harm of education.

“Does intelligence boost happiness? Smartness of all pays more than being smarter than others” in Int. J. Happiness and Development, 2012, 1, 5-27

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