The AtlanticThe Atlantic

How smart people can stop being miserable

By Arthur C. Brooks

23 Mar 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Intelligence can make you happier, but only if you see it as more than a tool to get ahead. The Atlantic weighs in on the human pursuit for happiness and how it is often impacted by other goals.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know,” an unnamed character casually remarks in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Garden of Eden. You might say that this is a corollary of the much more famous “Ignorance is bliss.”

The latter recalls phenomena such as the Dunning-Kruger effect—in which people lacking skills and knowledge in a particular area innocently underestimate their own incompetence—and the illusion of explanatory depth, which can prompt autodidacts on social media to excitedly present complex scientific phenomena, thinking they understand them in far greater depth than they really do.

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