Studies Say These Traits Are Most Common in Highly Intelligent People

Do you possess them?

Updated 09/22/19
a woman in a work outfit
Street Smith

What does it mean to be intelligent? How does one know if they're smarter than 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 quick-witted, inventive, and knowledgeable—all the traits we aspire to possess, of course. But that's not all.

Turns out, clever people typically also have quite a few more characteristics than just the above. We've tracked down some of the science-backed traits that mean you're smarter than the average person.

You Have "Evolutionarily Novel Values and Preferences"

study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychology Quarterly in 2010 found that more intelligent people show characteristics that are unique for the human species in evolutionary history, such as not having religious beliefs.

"Adolescent and adult intelligence significantly increases adult liberalism, atheism, and men’s (but not women’s) value on sexual exclusivity," the study's abstract says.

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? Society typically lauds those with an outgoing personality, but a study says that those who crave alone time and solitude over social interactions tend to be smarter. The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychology in 2016, found that with increased socialization came decreased happiness for more intelligent individuals. So don't feel bad if you decline the next invitation.

You Worry More

Are you a natural worrywart? 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. Slate reports on a study by psychologist Alexander Penney and his colleagues at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada that found that out of 100 students, those with more angst scored higher on a verbal intelligence test. This 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 26 people who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and 18 healthy individuals. Coplan found that "people with more severe symptoms [of GAD] had a higher IQ than those with milder symptoms."

You Stay Up Late

Highly intelligent children grow up to be more nocturnal as adults than less intelligent children, according to Psychology Today. This goes back to being "evolutionarily novel," as with rejecting religion. We all have an internal biological clock, but unlike other animals, our intelligence allows us to override it and stay up late if we want to.

The University of Madrid has also studied around 1,000 teenagers and found that those who stay up late score higher on inductive reasoning, which is an estimate of general intelligence.

You Like to Skip the Gym

Thanks to a study published in the Sage Journal of Health Psychology in 2015, we now know that skipping workouts may be 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." Working out just doesn't offer that.

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