Thousands of people were asked how smart they wanted to be.
When asked, people choose an average IQ of around 130, research shows,
This level makes a person smart, mildly gifted even, but certainly not a genius.
In fact, people are surprisingly modest across a wide range of personal traits, when asked their ideal level.
When asked how long they’d like to live, the average is 90 years, which is only a little higher than normal life expectancy.
Even when given the option of taking a magic pill that gives eternal youth, they still only go for 120 years, on average.
Professor Matthew J. Hornsey, who led the research, said:
“Our research shows that people’s sense of perfection is surprisingly modest.
People wanted to have positive qualities, such as health and happiness, but not to the exclusion of other darker experiences — they wanted about 75% of a good thing.”
People who live in more holistic cultures — like Japan and China — were even more modest in the ideal levels they chose.
This reflects the fact that Eastern philosophies often emphasise the coexistence of good and bad.
Professor Hornsey explained:
“Interestingly, the ratings of perfection were more modest in countries that had traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism.
This makes sense — these Eastern philosophies and religions tend to place more emphasis on the notion that seemingly contradictory forces coexist in a complementary, interrelated state, such that one cannot exist without the other.”
The study’s conclusions come from 2,392 people in Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Peru, Russia, and the United States.
The results showed that people were much more interested in being perfectly healthy than perfectly happy.
Professor Hornsey said:
“This principle of maximization is threaded through many prominent philosophical and economic theories.
But our data suggest that people have much more complex, blended notions of perfection, ones that embrace both light and dark.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Hornsey et al., 2018).
Hello, and welcome to PsyBlog. Thanks for dropping by.
This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.
It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.
I try to dig up fascinating studies that tell us something about what it means to be human.