I had an interesting lecture in PSYCH3250 Adult Psychopathology today. Professor Segal, an eccentric man he is, presented us with some very interesting data on our classmates.
First, he mentioned the average IQ of a Cornellian is 128 (or 126? I forgot), which is in the top 15% percentile. I found this point fascinating – this means the entire Cornell IQ bell curve has shifted by 28 points to the right as compared to the national mean (M=100), meaning it is much more likely to see a person 3 or 4 s.d.s above the national average (i.e. extremely smart people). This also means it is rather rare to see a person of mean intelligence (100) here.
The following point refers to some in-class surveys we took at the beginning of the semester which judged the class’s happiness and depression levels via projection and self-report tests. It appears that some 50% of the class is either mildly or clinically depressed (of course, take the results with a grain of salt. The numbers were based on a 10 minute survey). This high rate of depression (what is depression, anyway) is interesting because it is significantly (500%) higher than the U.S. national average, which is 10%.
It is true that young adults are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, but merely referring to our age group (early 20′s) cannot account for this huge number.
Now, a couple of theories:
- Self-selection: students of psychology are more likely to self-report as depressed because they are fascinated by their own depressive tendencies. Maybe, but the class had quite a few students from other disciplines as well. This cannot be the whole story.
- The weather: it’s winter! Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is prevalent in the wintry months during which the absence of sunlight exposure and cooler weather makes the population especially susceptible to depressive symptoms. Maybe, but SAD shouldn’t account for such a huge increase in reports of depression.
- Statistical error: of course, the survey may have been flawed. But Segal’s been doing this for years and this year’s results correlate well with former years‘ – shouldn’t be such a huge problem, then.
- Intelligence: ah… intelligence. Remember the IQ bit I put in at the beginning? After doing a quick Google search on the “correlation between intelligence and depression,” there seems to be a myriad of articles describing their relationship. I have been to group therapy before, and it appeared to me that people in group were much more pensive than their non-therapy peers. Could be a self-selection thing, again, but could it really be that intelligence makes us sadder?
Remember the saying, “ignorance is bliss”?
Intelligent people over-think things. They perceive more. They self-reflect more. They want to achieve more. They have more awareness, and hence have more doubts.
Just think - what fun was it being 5 years old, not knowing anything, unable to accomplish anything? Was it really “bliss,” not being able to ponder life’s problems and wonders?
I am glad to have the ability to self-reflect and to plan, to be happy and to be sad. I would rather be sad than to be ignorant, for to not understand is to not live. To be passively washed ashore is to not savor the delights of having fought against the ocean.
Yes, intelligence makes us sadder.
It’s not a psychological question – it’s a phenomenological one.