Do you think it is like this? A linear correlation between intelligence and happiness.

IQ vs happiness 1

Or is it like this? A local minimum for semi-bright individuals?

IQ vs happiness 2

Would love to hear your theories on the matter. Help me out here. I can’t make up my mind over the two scenarios. For Linus Pauling’s and Bertrand Russell’s sake, I sincerely hope #2 is correct.

UPDATE NOV 17, 2011: Looks like I was a bit off. Lisa Simpson and I had similar hypotheses, however, as seen here. Kudos to Chemjobber for the link.


16 Responses to Is IQ inversely proportional to happiness? Can it be this simple?

  1. Joakim says:

    Either way 150 seem to be a shitty place to be. If you have 200 at least you have 50/50 to be happy…or it might be a sign that someone is manic depressive.

    • Matt says:

      “ignorance is bliss” Not that ignorance and intelligence are interchangeable, but the less intelligent individual is far more likely to be ignorant. Those of lesser intelligence are less likely to be aware of how desperate or dismal their situation is.

      In short, yes. The two are almost always inversely proportional.

  2. How can IQ and happiness be separable variables? A genius may have a far more nuanced understanding of happiness and/or be far more able to express his relationship to it. The other end of the spectrum also makes my point: how much sense does it make to ask about the “happiness” of any organism with very little intelligence, say like an amoeba?

    This is not to justify the torture of animals, by the way. Physical pain and the pain of being locked in small cages or whatever are sufficiently basic violations of many animals’ nature that little or no intelligence is required. I’m saying something different, just wanted to pre-empt any of that predictable criticism.

    • drfreddy says:

      Oh, I was talking humans. Can we agree that there appears to be many less intelligent people in this world who seem very happy? I read somewhere that depression is non-existing among people who suffer from Down’s syndrome. Can we also agree that a great deal of really bright people around us are unhappy? Those were my starting points.

      • That’s fine. But I still think that the variables aren’t independent. If intelligence plays a role in what the respondent understands by happiness, then an idiot and a genius won’t be discussing the same thing.

        You’ll have to simplify the notion of happiness to a few extremely basic questions you can ask both the idiot and the genius (and everyone in between). But then you’re getting responses on a conception of happiness that you devised, not necessarily what the people you ask understand it to mean.

        There are also a large number of problems with measuring people’s intelligence in terms of IQ, the tests for which are notoriously narrow in what they measure.

        That said, I don’t doubt that what we typically call “more intelligent” people have a higher predisposition to depression. My instinct is to suspect the fact that more intelligent people are able more easily to identify problems with optimistic perspectives. You can tell some idiots “it will be ok” and they might believe you. You tell a smart person and they’ll tell you a dozen reasons to think why that’s just not realistic. That’s an effect of more analytical minds.

        • drfreddy says:

          Do you think a person can be so unintelligent that he or she cannot distinguish between sad and happy? I think of these as primary, reptilian feelings. Like hunger och fullness. Pain or pleasure. No?

          I used the words IQ and intelligence interchangeably to further fuel the contoversy, tabloid stylee.

          • I’m not sure this is really going anywhere. The human/animal distinction is, ultimately, false since humans are animals and because it’s possible to have people of low intelligence who are able only to identify primary feelings like hunger, pain, etc. In fact, animals with low sentience also try avoid pain, hunger, etc. Doesn’t mean they conceive of it as happiness in any way that they can discuss. The whole question you pose sounds to me like a muddle of woolly notions of “intelligence”, “happiness”, “sentience”, and practical difficulties associated with measuring any and all of them.
            Bottom line is: we know what causes suffering to animals and humans alike and we should move to minimize it wherever we can.

            • drfreddy says:

              Then allow me rephrase my original question to (to better reflect what I meant to say):

              “If a group of, let’s say, one million randomly chosen people were screened for clinical depression according to the standardized DSM-IV criteria, do you think that the subgroup that meet the criteria for major depressive disorder are on average more intelligent, as judged by their IQ, than the subgroup that do not meet these criteria?”

              • I wouldn’t be surprised if the group meeting the DSM-IV criteria had, on average, higher IQ scores. But I don’t much like the DSM-IV criteria either. It’s horribly vague.

                As I indicated before, I think far more light could be shed on this if research was done to see whether people able to reason in more detail about the future (better at anticipating different realistic future scenarios) suffered from more depression than those who were worse at it and b) whether this indeed accounded (at least in part) for their depression. But that would take a lot of work, fMRI scans and all the rest.

                I emphasise that an important aspect of what we call “intelligence” is anticipating the future, including – and must have been evolutionarily important – where our plans may fail. More intelligent creatures would therefore be more likely to entertain failure and negative outcomes in general. I suspect that has a lot to do with the supposed intelligence-depression link (although it probably isn’t the only factor involved).

    • Bruna says:

      I think Bush is smarter than he apeaprs in your rear view mirror. I saw a documentary about him with a reporter and he seemed as sharp as a tack.Leaving aside all political or other opinions about the wisdom of his decisions in various areas, the guy is smart.It has become accepted truth to consider him to be dumb and the errors of his speech contributed to that.But he is either stupid and not culpable or he is smart and culpable (perhaps even scheming). You usually can’t have it both ways although I think here we have an argument for Intelligent Stupidity.Yours in Ed Sullivan,Martin Goldstein

  3. Eric Blair says:

    Probably you know few happy intelligent people, but then again, there are few intelligent people.

    I propose that you perform some experiment taking into account that.

    • drfreddy says:

      Yes, I do know a couple of highly intelligent AND happy people. Snap.

      I got the inspiration for this post through an interview with the new chairman for Swedish Mensa. She was asked if she thought smarter people were happier in general, to which she replied: I think it is the other way around.

  4. milkshake says:

    not only you are interchangeably use IQ and intelligence, but I think you are interchanging it with smarts. There are technically highly gifted people who make completely moronic decisions about their personal life and who despite their enormous processing power cannot figure out what they want and how to get it.

    • drfreddy says:

      1. To my defense, ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ are more or less synonymous in my native tongue, which is Swedish. I think that, please do correct me, it is also so in US English. I’m aware of, especially now that you point it out, that ‘smart’ is a word with many meanings in British English. Let’s not bury this question in semantics.

      2. I mixed IQ and intelligence up good to provoke some sort of response. It worked.

      3. I do not think that it has escaped anyone that there are many types of intelligence. Stephen Hawking cannot outsing Beyonce and Shakespeare wouldn’t have brought home a single gold medal with him from the 1984 Summer Olympics, had he competed.

      4. I would like to scratch most of the above and be very specific: Is high IQ (above 131 on Raven’s progressive matrices) a significant risk factor for depression?

  5. Kim says:

    Personally, I find that they are inversely proportional, at least with my own acquaintances. With a higher awareness comes an enormous amount of uncertainty– that is, one knows what one doesn’t know. Uncertainty has consistently been linked with depression.

    I’m just below the 150 mark and have always had an undercurrent of depression, just like a low hum beneath the surface. Everything academic is easy for me, but I’m terrible with playing interpersonal games, and it’s vital to do that to have friendships with other women. I always feel profoundly alone. And have engaged in high-risk, high-stimulation behavior because I get bored with routine. I don’t appreciate the value of hard work. I’m lazy. Yeesh, what a downer! I’m in a bad mood today. :p

    So, I hope I can find happiness. I hope everyone can.

    • Tedinski says:

      Hello Kim!

      Your situation seems remarkably similar to mine. For the last 25 years, I’ve gone back and forth between being thoroughly bored, and engaging in high-stimulation behaviour.

      You should look into the symptoms of Bipolar II (not traditional bipolar!)

      I hope you can find happiness as well. It can be quite the struggle!

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