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Intelligent people tend to drink more alcohol than less intelligent people because alcohol is evolutionarily novel


Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at LSE, writes in support of the Savanna Principle, which states that “more intelligent individuals should be better able to comprehend and deal with evolutionarily novel (but not evolutionarily familiar) entities and situations than less intelligent individuals.” He looks at alcohol consumption in this light, bearing in mind that it is very recent indeed in evolutionary terms.

“The intentional fermentation of fruits and grain to yield ethanol arose only recently in human history.  The production of beer, which relies on a large amount of grain, and that of wine, which similarly requires a large amount of grapes, could not have taken place before the advent of agriculture around 8,000 BC and the consequent agricultural surplus.  Archeological evidence dates the production of beer and wine to Mesopotamia at about 6,000 BC.”

Distilled spirits are even more recent, dating from Middle East or China at about 700 AD.  On the Savanna Principle, we might therefore expect the frequency and volumes of alcohol consumption to correlate with IQ.  And so it does, even after variables such as sex, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, education, income and social class are factored out.  The graphs show an increase in consumption for each IQ quintile, from below 75, 75-90, 90-110, 110-125, and 125+. “Very bright” British children grow up to consume alcohol nearly one full standard deviation more frequently than their “very dull” classmates.  And there are similar results for adults.

To sum up the argument:  because alcohol is recent, you’d expect high IQ people to be more at ease with it, and this is born out by statistical evidence.  I am at a loss as to what to make of this, or what its implications are.  The sneaking possibility that suggests itself is that drinking might lead to a more satisfied lifestyle, which is why smarter people tend to do it.  I wonder if there are any public policy implications in this?


2 Responses

  1. Mr Kanazawa has clearly never been in a boozer in a Working Class area.

    However. Higher IQ generally means better job, better wage, more disposable income, more leisure time since lower paid IQs work longer hours/work shifts.

    But anyway it is our old friend correlation proves causality.

  2. Public policy implications? Well, on these figures minimum alcohol pricing would be a tax on intelligence…

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