The Savanna Happiness Theory: Better Alone Than in Bad Company

· June 4, 2018

The Savanna Happiness Theory emerged from conclusions drawn from a scientific investigation published in the British Journal of Psychology. Although it has not yet been sufficiently conceptualized, it does represent an interesting approach.

It all started when a group of researchers did an extensive survey about happiness. They wanted to establish if happiness was related to the environment where people lived. It set out to contrast the degree of happiness experienced by those who live in rural environments with those who live in urban environments.

The research also collected demographic and IQ data from the interviewees. In total, 15,000 adults between 18 and 28 years old were surveyed. One result was the Savanna Happiness Theory.

First conclusion of the Savanna Happiness Theory

One of the first conclusions, and also one of the most surprising, has to do with the relationship between IQ and the preferred living environment. According to the study, smarter people prefer to live in urban environments. On the other hand, those with a lower IQ have a special preference for rural areas.

Savanna Happiness Theory


This is one of the most important aspects of the Savanna Happiness Theory. The researchers wondered why people with higher IQs preferred an urban environment, which is much more stressful and difficult to live in and cope with.

The answer they found is that our brain inherited something from our ancestors. It makes us look for rural environments — or savannas — because they’re easier to deal with.

Our brains evolved, however, and started to adapt to environments with high population density, despite the fact that they were more stressful. People with higher IQs cope better with these conditions. In fact, they find a lot of opportunity there.

Solitude, a key factor

The survey also asked about the quantity and quality of the participants’ relationships. The data showed another interesting pattern. It said that people with a higher IQ feel happier with fewer social interactions. But for people with a lower IQ, the opposite happens: the more social interaction they have, the happier they are.

Likewise, the researchers explained that those who have a higher IQ actually use solitude as a mechanism to handle urban stress more successfully. One of the ways to reduce the number of stimuli is by limiting their relationships with others. This helps them avoid stress and allows them more time to invest in long-term projects.

City scene

On the other hand, those who have a lower IQ feel happier when they can interact with others frequently. It is, in fact, a factor that decreases their stress and worry, and they spend a great deal of their productive time with these social interactions. Here again we can see the influence of the savanna ancestors.

The validity of the Savanna happiness theory

In summary, what the Savanna Happiness Theory proposes is that the smartest are more urban-based and loners. And those with a lower IQ are more sociable, gregarious and attached to rural environments. While the former prefer to be alone than in bad company, the latter find very little satisfaction in solitude.

However, it might be a bit hasty to throw all our weight behind this theory. Although it’s based on a very extensive study and provides some novel ideas, it does need more. No solid theory can be built on the basis of a single study, however extensive and technical it may be.

Nor does the fact that they place such importance on the IQ seem very sustainable. The truth is that measuring intelligence is still a controversial issue. For example, throughout history we see both “gregarious geniuses” and “loner geniuses”. Mozart belonged to the former, and Beethoven the latter. Still, the study is interesting and we can be sure it will give rise to many new developments and theories.