Next time you’re hanging out with your friends, look around and see who is tossing back more beer than the rest of them: that could be the most intelligent person in the group. It’s an odd thought, I know, but research shows that the more intelligent a person is, the more likely they are to consume larger amounts of alcohol.
There are a lot of theories about why this might be the case. One psychologist, Martin Smith, suggests this is because, “People higher in general intelligence…are not bothered by the strangeness of the alcohol experience.” His theory is that more intelligent people are more understanding and aware of themselves, enabling themselves to experience the sensations that go along with drinking and not be freaked out by it. Instead, to them, it is a pleasurable experience dealt with through mental maturity.
In a separate study, psychologist David Batty, explains that intelligent people most likely have more stressful jobs and drinking is a form of stress release. Essentially, rising stress is positively correlated to how many rounds a person will order, and it is more likely that an intelligent person will hold these highly stressful positions.
And another study suggests it is an evolutionarily dictated habit. Satoshi Kanazawa, psychologist and author, ran studies on this very subject. Controlling for a long list of demographics, including race, religion, gender, parents’ education, marital status, and childhood social class (among many others), Kanazawa placed people in one of five categories ranging from “very dull” to “very bright.” The results showed that the more intelligent a person was, the more they drank compared to the less intelligent participants in the study.
What’s more, Kanazawa suggests that because people drinking what he calls “modern drinks” is “evolutionarily novel,” it makes sense that intelligent people would partake in such an activity.
Modern drinks are defined by Kanazawa as beer, wine and distilled spirits made for the purpose of drinking. Thousands of years ago, Kanazawa explains, many people (and even some animals) got drunk by accident—by eating old fruit that has already started to naturally ferment. With the discovery of the process, drinking became an intended pastime.
Thus his hypothesis: “more intelligent individuals may be more likely to prefer drinking modern alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and distilled spirits) than less intelligent individuals, because the substance and the method of consumption are both evolutionarily novel.” And his results were
I must warn you, though: this does not mean that drinking more will make you smarter; only that your smart friends may hold their alcohol a little better than you can.