As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss, so does intellectual curiosity equate sadness? Traditionally this is what we seem to perceive. Often we imagine the most intelligent of us to be troubled by dissatisfaction, self crippling perfectionism and isolation. Let's bring to mind Alan Turing, Lisa Simpson and Virginia Woolf. Stars, still, in a room of their own, whilst they churned out what is seen as some of the greatest, most admired work known today.
In the 21st century, and a whole heap of centuries gone by, a great majority of the education system has tended to sway towards heightening academic intelligence. The education system spends millions, even billions of pounds on supposedly hiring some of the brightest, most intelligent (on paper) among us to lecture in universities and teach in schools, and buying resources that supposedly enhance our cognitive abilities.
In 1926, psychologist Lewis Terman, decided to adopt the IQ test to single-out and follow the lives of a group of smart children. Scouring CA's schools for the creme de la creme, Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Grouped together, they became recognised as the "Termites".
Many did go on to achieve fame and wealth. But equally, many went on to go into "humble" professions, such as being a police officer, typist or seafarer.
High intelligence was also revealed as not necessarily supporting personal happiness. Over the duration of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were measured as being the same as the national average.
The moral of the story of "The Termites" was the concept that high intellect does not guarantee a better standard of living. Great intellect does not ensure great contentment in life, and this is a study result that has been exposed, again and again.
Further, intelligence doesn't mean you make "wise" decisions. In fact, it can actually make your decisions more foolish. Keith Stanovich at the University of Toronto studied rationality for a decade and discovered that fair, unbiased decision-making has nothing to do with IQ.
People with high marks on cognitive tests are also more likely to have a “bias blind spot”. That is, they are less able to see their own flaws, even when though they are quite capable of criticising the foibles of others.