What does it mean to be intelligent? How does one know if you're smarter than the average? Well, if we went by the Merriam-Webster definition, it means you have "the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations" and you also have "the skilled use of reason," but that seems too clinical. In our minds, being intelligent refers to those who are brainy, quick-witted, bright, inventive, and knowledgeable, all the traits we aspire to possess, of course. But that's not all.
Turns out, clever people also have quite a few more unconventional characteristics too. For example, they prefer a messy desk over a clean one, they're always late, and they hit the snooze button more than they should. But wait, those don't sound like the signs of a particularly adept or gifted person… Intrigued to know more? We went on an internet hunt to track down all the science-backed traits that mean you're smarter than the average person. Don't blame us, the studies don't lie.
You're Less Traditional
If you tend to go against the grain and prefer to veer away from the traditional, then you are typically more intelligent than the masses. A study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly found open-mindedness and a desire to live outside the box or push social norms was a sign of intelligence.
"More intelligent people are significantly more likely to exhibit social values and religious and political preferences that are novel to the human species in evolutionary history," writes Phys.org of the study. "Specifically, liberalism and atheism, and for men (but not women), preference for sexual exclusivity correlate with higher intelligence." If this sounds like you, then you can tick that box on the smarter than average radar.
You Prefer to Be Alone
Do you find yourself moaning internally when you're invited to a friend's night out or a work event? Does the idea of social interaction with a lot of noise and people around you make you feel a little anxious? Well, it could mean that you're higher up on the clever Richter scale than most. Society typically admires exhibitionists or lauds those with an outgoing personality, but science says it's the reclusive, introverted types who crave alone time and solitude over social interactions that are smarter. The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychology, found that with increased socialization came decreased happiness. So don't feel bad if you decline the next invitation. You're smart enough to know what your body needs. Besides, isolation is a good thing (in moderation).
Have you ever seen a creative person with a clean studio? Most of the outliers who craft original ideas or are renowned for their innovation don't work in minimal environments. Albert Einstein was famously messy. But don't take our word for it. A string of studies has proven the chaotic gene runs through most highly intelligent people. In fact, according to a 2013 study led by Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, intelligent people use their disorganized space as creative fuel. In fact, messiness actually ramps up their inventive productivity.
In another study, messiness was akin to laser focus. Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, authors of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, hypothesize that mess helps highlight priorities. "A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system," they state. "On a messy desk, the more important, urgent work tends to stay close by and near the top of the clutter, while the safely ignorable stuff tends to get buried to the bottom or near the back, which makes perfect sense." Who knew!
You Have a Wandering Mind
Are you easily distracted? Do you find yourself checking your phone at every Facebook notification and using any excuse to leave your work desk? If your teacher wrote "is easily distracted" on your school report too, then it's time you turned what's typically considered a negative attribute into a compliment. According to a new Steelcase study, a wandering mind could be a sign that you’re actually pretty smart.
In fact, the research found that the harder it is to keep your mind focused on one task, the more intelligent you are. So ditch the guilt about your ability to focus and feel empowered by it. Just learn how to harness that energy and prioritize good distractions with a little discipline so you can return to the task at hand quickly and get the job done by the deadline.
You Worry More
Are you a natural worrywart? Do you stress the small stuff? While we all have a tendency to fear the worst, intelligent people are prone to higher levels of anxiety. Having increased capacity for knowledge actually gives you increased anguish. A study reported in Slate found that students with more angst scored higher on a verbal intelligence test. Which means when surveyed, they wrote answers like "I am always worrying about something."
But that's not the only study. Psychiatrist Jeremy Coplan of New York's SUNY Downstate Medical Center ran a study with people who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder. Coplan found that "people with more severe symptoms had a higher IQ than those with milder symptoms." So when someone tells you to take a chill pill, throw science in their face.
You Swear and Stay Up Late
From a young age, we're told time and time again that profanity is sinful. Regardless of the insistent instruction, most of us have uttered a cuss word at least once (even if it was behind closed doors). If you have a tendency to use profanity regularly, then society should stop frowning on you. If the studies are anything to go by, swearing actually means you're smarter. Business Insider's John Stanley Hunter did some personal research and according to his three psychology studies, "using curse words, staying up late, and preferring messiness to organization can all be scientifically interpreted as signs of intelligence."
It's safe to say that most of us tend to have a lazy gene, but if yours is stronger than most, you should applaud your couch-potato tendencies. Thanks to a new study published in the Sage Journal of Health Psychology, we now know laziness is akin to intelligence.
According to the researchers, people who will find any excuse to skip the gym have higher levels of a trait called "need for cognition," or a "tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive endeavors." Since the study sample size only consisted of 60 people, it could be a bit of a stretch to say all natural slackers are smarter, but we're taking it as a sign. Any excuse to feel less guilty about our Netflix binge habits.