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Smart people are more likely to develop and hold new and unusual beliefs:
More intelligent people are significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history. Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence, a new study finds. The study, published in the March 2010 issue of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly, advances a new theory to explain why people form particular preferences and values. The theory suggests that more intelligent people are more likely than less intelligent people to adopt evolutionarily novel preferences and values, but intelligence does not correlate with preferences and values that are old enough to have been shaped by evolution over millions of years.
“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” says Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”
Intelligent people are more likely to be able to think of their own solutions to any problem and so it is natural and adaptive for them to put more faith in their own judgement over inherited rules and habits. This reminded me of Jon Haidt’s research on our evolved ethical instincts which found liberals were more likely to prioritise harm/care and fairness/justice as moral principles while conservatives valued those two as well as ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity equally. Loyalty, authority and sanctity evolved as rules which would ensure the smooth functioning of a society and the welfare of individuals within it. Liberals are usually less interested in using such rules to ensure the coherence of groups, but why? Looking at Satoshi’s evidence, it’s possible that because they are more likely to think up and embrace novel solutions to problems, they are more willing to expand the generalisable principles of care and justice to ensure social stability and cooperation, perhaps through a more expansive welfare system. Having gone through such a thought process they have less need for whatever specific rules and intuitions we evolved to ensure social stability in the ancestral environment.
Intelligent men embracing sexual exclusivity is probably a weak example of smart sincere syndrome. In near mode, men want sex and lots of it with lots of people. Just notice the Coolidge effect. In far mode though we value exclusive love. Intelligent men are more likely to suppress their near desire for sex and generalise their far value for exclusive love. Were there a long run in human evolution this impractical value would eventually disappear, as intelligent men are more attractive and have more to gain from embracing polygamy.