"Our work shows that the price of higher intelligence and more complex behaviours is more mental illness."

-Professor Seth Grant Professor of Molecular Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh

Is this finding from this professor's work agreed upon in the scientific community?

Are there more dynamics, contexts or other aspects to this conclusion...or is this just a 1-to-1 correlation?

Any other evidence about these types of studies published, and what are their conclusions?

Thank You.


  • $\begingroup$ There are very few, if any perfect correlations in psychology. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2014 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ @nick-stauner: it always boggles my brain that "proven" concepts always have "proven" contradictions. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2014 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ Those of us who watch our mouths closely enough avoid claiming proof at almost every opportunity ;) That being said, it would be easier to prove that a perfect correlation is nearly impossible in most practical contexts than to prove a claim like the one in your quote. Most psychological claims are probabilistic, meaning that they aren't expected to give perfect predictions for anyone. That doesn't mean there isn't coherent, useful evidence available about differences in those predictions and the probabilities that they'll apply to any given person! It's very tricky to wrap my head around too. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2014 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ I got some facts about that, see here... $\endgroup$
    – draks ...
    Jan 11, 2014 at 22:46

1 Answer 1


Kazimierz Dabrowski had a great theory (the Theory of Positive Disintegration) about the relationship between psychoneuroses, the most common symptoms of mental illness, and the developmental trajectories of gifted people. In brief, gifted people are more likely to live out-of-sync with their social environments (too smart, too intense, too righteous, too sensitive). This causes conflict with individuals and the world at large. Because they live in a state of inner and outer conflict due to their essential differences, they develop psychoneuroses (anxiety, obsessions, existential depression etc). These neuroses are evidence for positive disintegration in the gifted, as the process of becoming one's own person in a world that isn't made for the 'Scary smart' is psychologically painful. Many never pass the disintegrative phase, and live with these symptoms perpetually. So I imagine that the correlation between smarts/creativity and mental illness arises from their characteristic unwillingness to abandon the parts of themselves that set them up to be at odds with 'normal' life. Those are the same intensities that make them exceptional. The upside is that unwanted symptoms of positive disintegration can be worked through and a 'personality ideal' - roughly analogous to a self-actualizing personality a la Maslow - can be achieved. I hope that gives some insight into the context and dynamics behind that common observation in folk psychology. It's not "smart people are all crazy" but more like "smart people face challenges that most others don't" and that can make them seem crazy while on their hard path of personality development.

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    $\begingroup$ I think its important to note that this is a purely psychological viewpoint rather than biology based psychology. $\endgroup$
    – user3832
    Jan 14, 2014 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ @user3832 - Important because...? $\endgroup$
    – user9634
    Jun 6, 2017 at 1:02

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