Country roads, take me home… to my friends: How intelligence, population density, and friendship affect modern happiness

Br J Psychol. 2016 Nov;107(4):675-697. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12181. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


We propose the savanna theory of happiness, which suggests that it is not only the current consequences of a given situation but also its ancestral consequences that affect individuals' life satisfaction and explains why such influences of ancestral consequences might interact with intelligence. We choose two varied factors that characterize basic differences between ancestral and modern life - population density and frequency of socialization with friends - as empirical test cases. As predicted by the theory, population density is negatively, and frequency of socialization with friends is positively, associated with life satisfaction. More importantly, the main associations of life satisfaction with population density and socialization with friends significantly interact with intelligence, and, in the latter case, the main association is reversed among the extremely intelligent. More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends. This study highlights the utility of incorporating evolutionary perspectives in the study of subjective well-being.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology; friendships; population density; positive psychology; subjective well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology*
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Population Density*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Socialization
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult