Anxious people have higher verbal IQs, research finds.
High verbal lQ is the ability to use language to achieve goals.
Verbal intelligence and anxiety are also linked to superior critical thinking, problem-solving and abstract reasoning.
Intelligent people may tend towards anxiety because the two mutually beneficial traits evolved together.
Although worrying is not usually thought beneficial, worriers tend to keep out of danger so their genes are more likely to be passed on.
In other words, worriers and intelligent people survive, while the the less intelligent and reckless do not.
The conclusions come from a survey of 126 people who were given tests of intelligence, depression and anxiety.
The results revealed that people higher in verbal intelligence ruminate more.
Rumination — thinking about the causes and consequences of depressing events — is common in depression.
Rumination is frequently linked to the maintenance of depression.
The study’s authors write:
“It is possible that more verbally intelligent individuals are able to consider past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry.
Individuals with high non-verbal intelligence may be stronger at processing the non-verbal signals they interact with in the moment, leading to a decreased need to re-process past social encounters.”
The study took into account that anxious people often perform worse on tests — including intelligence tests.
The authors write:
“…symptoms of acute depression might decrease an individual’s ability to perform optimally on an intelligence test,
and that the individual may not have lower intelligence.”
The link between verbal IQ and anxiety emerged after taking into account people’s tendency to worry while taking the test.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Penney et al., 2015).