16 unexpected, but scientifically grounded signs of intelligent people

16 unexpected, but scientifically grounded signs of intelligent people

Intelligent people are a “fan club of their own”: they spend a lot of resources and carry out research to find out what do they have in common.

Scientists and researchers around the world devote a lot of time to figuring out various facts about smart people (that is, about themselves as well). Some studies give very unexpected results, that are difficult to relate to reality and analyze even retrospectively. We decided to compile into one digest the most unexpected of such characteristics and personal qualities that for one reason or another are inherent to people with a high level of intellectual development.

It is important to note: all the statements below are made by scientists. They are based on serious articles, published according to all the necessary rules in specialized world-class scientific journals.

1. You don’t like to fuss about? Clever!

The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology, have come up with an interesting conclusion: people who are not prone to cognitive activity, quickly get bored with everything, especially with sitting on their hands, so they have to entertain themselves with some physical activity from time to time. At the same time, intellectuals do not get bored, even when they have to sit in one place — they are able to plunge into meditations that allow them to forget about the most bustling atmosphere around without unnecessary movements. Therefore, non-intellectuals are more prone to physical activity — they just get bored, whereas intelligent people tend to avoid unnecessary physical exercises.

2. Intellectuals go to sleep late and get up late

This statement is not based on a scientific work, but on a hypothesis, which, however, is supported by the results of a study published in the journal Psychology Today. The logical chain is as follows: every living organism has its circadian rhythm: at one time biological processes are slowed down, while at the other time they are accelerated. In general, the full cycle takes approximately 24 hours. This “biological clock” is inherent not only to people and animals, but also to plants, mushrooms, bacteria. In the organism of human and other mammals the neural cells of the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus are responsible for maintaining the circadian rhythm. When it is time to sleep, and when it is not, the suprachiasmatic nucleus is informed by the genes. In the process of evolution, this information has not been changed much, and each of us in the normal conditions wants to sleep in the evening, and feels full of energy in the afternoon. However, human, thanks to intelligence has a unique ability to make this biological clock stray from a constant rhythm.

According to the researchers, during the evolution the most intelligent of our ancestors developed the ability to break the rhythm deliberately, to achieve their goals (this was a manifestation of the intelligence of higher primates, not usual animal instincts), and transmitted this feature through their genes to the descendants. Therefore, today those of us who choose the life of “night owls” are more likely to be more intelligent descendants of the more intelligent ancestors. And the study carried out among young Americans has confirmed this theory.

3. Smart people are more often skinny

Scientists have conducted several studies to examine the correlation between overweight and the level of intelligence among children, and discovered the undoubted relationship between the body mass index and the sharpness of mind. This dependence is explained by various factors. For example, it is believed that children who do not suffer from obesity are healthier and can devote themselves to comprehensive development. The authors of one study also argue that living in the city, wealthy parents and high education of the child’s father will help the kid to become a smarter adult in the future. On the other hand, children from poor country families, who have overweight and uneducated parents, find themselves in a risk group characterized by a higher chance for person to have a lower intelligence quotient in adulthood.

4. “Brainiacs” do not smoke…

In 2009, a serious study (actually, the largest research of this kind) was carried out, in which the correlation between the level of intelligence and the propensity to smoke was studied among 20,000 soldiers of the Israeli army. The relationship between the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the intelligence quotient turned out to be quite pronounced. The average IQ of the soldiers who smoked more than a pack of cigarettes a day, was 90. A little higher IQ was shown by the respondents who smoked, but less than a pack per day — about 94. And for the soldiers who did not smoke at all, the test showed average IQ to be 101. That is, the difference in IQ between non-smokers and persistent smokers was about 12%. What is the reason and what is the consequence here is unclear, but the dependence itself is quite explicit.

5. …but regularly drink alcohol

At the same time, speaking about the inhabitants of Great Britain, the relation was found between high intelligence in adulthood and the regular use of alcohol. The results of the study, which lasted almost half a century, are really interesting. This study was called the National Child Development Study and covered 17,419 children born in England, Wales, and Scotland between March 3 and 9, 1958. Respondents were interviewed and examined at the age of seven, at the age of 11, in the teenage period when they were 16, then at the age of 23, 33, 41-42 years, and finally in 2004-2005, 9,534 of them were interviewed at the age of 46-47 years.

It turned out that the participants of the experiment were quite clearly divided into intellectuals and those who could not boast of an outstanding mind. Moreover, according to the survey, it is precisely the “eggheads” who drank alcohol quite regularly throughout their conscious life. One can hardly understand now, what is the connection here, but it’s a fact!

6. The eldest child in the family is more intelligent

As it is often the case in fairy tales of different peoples, where “the eldest son is a clever boy, the middle one is fair to middling, and the younger one is quite a fool,” a lot of research actually says that the first child in the family is usually the smartest, the second one has a lower IQ, and the third one is the least intellectually developed. The reasons for this were searched for by different groups of scientists, but researchers have not yet come to a common standpoint on this issue. Perhaps this is somehow related to the age of the parents, their health during conception and childbearing, the period of fetation and the hormonal balance of the mother, but these are all only hypotheses that need to be checked.

However, the scientists from Norway, using the results of the survey conducted by draft boards among about 250,000 people of military age (19 years) who were born between 1967 and 1976, found that the first child in the family had an average IQ 103, the second one — 100, and the third one — 99. As for inventiveness and agility (which are usually inherent to the younger son in fairy tales), the research is silent.

7. Clever adults in the childhood were breast-fed

The relationship between the early period of human life and the degree of mental development is confirmed by the following fact: breast-fed babies subsequently become intelligent children. This was demonstrated by the results of a study that tested the intelligence level of more than 3,000 children in Great Britain and New Zealand. It should be noted that the results of the IQ test were higher by seven points not only for breast-fed children, compared to those who were not fed this way, but only for those who also had a certain version of the FADS2 gene. Therefore, this fact needs to be checked and further studied.

8. Smart children take music lessons

More explicit are the results of the studies that revealed a correlation between music lessons in the childhood and high IQ in older age. In particular, a Canadian scientist has shown that after nine months of musical training 6-year-olds showed a significant increase of the level of intellectual development. Another research, demonstrating the benefits of music lessons for intellect, was carried out several years earlier: then, the connection between only one month of music classes and the results of a verbal intelligence test among children aged 4-6 years was proved.

It is interesting that music lessons are more likely taken by intellectually developed children than their less intellectual fellows. That is, even if in your childhood for some reason you did not take music lessons, but wanted it, it is already a reason to assert that perhaps you were a more intelligent child than your peers and became more intellectual in adulthood.

9. Do you like cats more than dogs? Then your place is among the intellectuals!

Denise Guastello, associate professor of psychology at Carroll University (USA), at the Association of Psychological Science meeting reported on the results of a study according to which the best cognitive abilities are demonstrated by those people who are more likely to have a cat than a dog. She also named the personal qualities of “cat people”: they are more introverted than “dog people”, tend to be nonconformists and are more open-minded. According to the researchers, the following rule is working: people who are prone to be open-minded — which is common to intellectuals — more often choose cats, not dogs because of their own personal qualities. That is, if you want to “trick out” your intellect, it is pointless to became a cat-owner against your will. On the other hand, if you have a cat, you probably have the qualities inherent to the intellectuals.

10. Intellectuals enjoy loneliness

For ten years, researchers tried to figure out how socialization is related to intellectual development of people and their satisfaction with life. The authors of the publication in the British Journal of Psychology reported that time spent with friends, generally increases the satisfaction with life in people. But the degree of this satisfaction is inversely proportional to the level of our intellectual development. Thus, smart people deliberately avoid extra socialization, because it does not give them satisfaction.

So if you are an introvert, then this may be due to your developed intellectual abilities (by the way, compare this with the item number 1).

11. The tendency to anxiety is a sign of the intellect

If you do not worry about trifles and do not worry about life at all, it tells nothing definite about your intelligence. On the other hand, as scientists have shown, there is a correlation between tendency to anxiety and high intellectual development. Why? It is believed that anxiety, concern about circumstances that could potentially pose a danger to a person, helped our ancestors to survive in the process of evolution, and this property became a special skill which allowed homo sapiens to dominate. Thus, smart people tend to build models of possible dangerous situations and apply them to all life events, so sometimes they worry excessively even about some trifles — they were taught to do so by nature itself.

12. Do you have a great sense of humor? Then we do have some good news for you!

Many studies confirm the connection between intelligence and sense of humor. For example, according to the paper by the experts from the University of New Mexico (USA), published in journal Psychology Today, the sense of humor is inherent to smart and creative people and is therefore considered “sexually attractive factor,” because it surely indicates “good genes”. And this correlation manifests itself most brightly in men — that is, the jollier the man is, the more attractive he looks (here one doesn’t talk about clowns (joke)).

13. If you learn to read early, you are smart

Is reading in early childhood the cause or the result of a developed intelligence? In discussions on this issue there has already been enough crossing of swords. Indeed, a smarter kid potentially can learn to read earlier and easier. On the other hand, reading itself can provoke early development of cognitive abilities. Many scientists noted the general benefit of reading.

In order to put an end to the controversy, a group of British scientists analyzed the relationship of mental abilities and reading skills in 1,890 pairs of twins. According to the results of the study in which the twins took tests at the age of 7, 9, 10, 12 and 16 years, a clear connection was found: early development of reading skills leads to more rapid development of intelligence. The mechanisms of this process are still in question…

14. Modesty is a virtue of the clever people

Some people consider modesty to be a positive character trait, other find it negative, some people suffer from it, but the fact remains a fact: smart people are usually humbler than others. Intelligent people (in the broadest sense of the word) understand the limits of their knowledge; comprehensively developed people realize of how many areas they are ignorant (“I know that I know nothing,” said Socrates). At the same time, people with weak intelligence do not understand the level of their ignorance (precisely because of their ignorance and narrow horizons) and tend to overestimate their abilities — mental in particular. We recall here a well-known study by two scientists who discovered a cognitive distortion, named after them — the Dunning-Kruger effect. Thus, stupid people are usually arrogant, and smart people are usually modest.

15. Are you a liberal by political beliefs and an atheist? Smart choice…

The famous scientist Satoshi Kanazawa, who at one time proposed the “Savanna Principle” (briefly: human was formed long time ago in the African savannah, and after that did not evolve too much), recently carried out a study that demonstrated: highly intellectual people are liberal and do not believe in God (or gods). As for smart men (but not women), they are also sexually exclusive (prefer to have one sexual partner).

It should be noted that according to the research results, the average IQ of “very conservative” respondents was about 95, while “very liberal” respondents had an average IQ of 106.

16. You are tall? Then, probably, you are smart

Another unexpected conclusion was made by the scientists at one of the institutions of the Ivy League — Princeton University (USA). Their research reveals that as a result of collating the data on the height and the level of intellectual development of thousands of people, a pattern has been discovered: higher children (even at the age of three, when the school or pre-school institutions could not yet affect the intellect) have the best intellectual development. In adulthood, such children also earn more money (but this is probably a slightly different story).


Important note: each of these signs separately and all of them together do not necessarily indicate a high intellectual development of a person. Usually, when scientists argue that a certain characteristic is more common to intellectuals, it just means that this sign occurs more often among intellectuals, than among under-educated or not so intelligent people. It is also possible that a particular feature, which in the course of the research was recognized as inherent to intelligent people, is indeed their distinctive feature, since it is inherent to more than half of the intellectuals. De facto, it may well be that particular intellectually gifted person does not have a half the features on our list, while a person having a significant part of the listed qualities cannot at all boast of high intellectual development. And, of course, even if someone begins to cultivate these features — to be lazy, to get up late, to practice music, to have a cat, to give up smoking and start drinking — it certainly will not raise the level of such person’s intelligence.