Insatiable curiosity, an active fantasy life, a sensitivity to emotions and an appreciation of art and beauty are all linked to high IQ, a study finds.
High IQ may have a particularly strong link to curiosity because intelligence creates a ‘cognitive hunger’ — a desire to think.
Over the years, higher IQ drives people to keep exploring new experiences to satiate this hunger.
Curiosity, along with sensitivity to emotions, appreciation of beauty and an active fantasy life are all aspects of the major personality trait called ‘openness to experience’.
Being open to experience is so powerful that it is linked to intelligence when measured almost 40 years later.
Children who scored higher on IQ tests at just 11-years-old were more open to experience when they were 50-years-old, the psychologists found.
The study’s authors explain their results:
“…childhood intelligence is indeed positively associated with adult trait Openness, even when it was assessed almost four decades earlier when participants were at 11 years.
Intelligence may influence the development of personality in that intelligent people develop habits to satisfy their curiosity and ‘‘cognitive hunger’’ which are an essential ingredient of Openness.”
The conclusions come from a huge study of 17,415 people born in the UK in one week in March 1958.
Over the following 50 years they were given various personality and intelligence tests.
Children with higher IQs were more open to experience because of higher motivation at school, greater support from their families and higher social status, the researchers found.
They explain how these factors fit together:
“Parents of higher socioeconomic status may foster children’s trait Openness by providing better resources such as choosing good schools and cultural environment (theaters, museums, traveling abroad, etc.); intelligent children tend to use more mental activities (such as abstract ideas, learning new
vocabularies, or math formulas) than those who are less intelligent; school settings (quality of teaching, good facilities) may enhance pupils to engage more in school learning.
All these three factors may influence educational and
occupational achievement, which in turn, may increase
the scores on Openness.”
In other words, they believe that it is a higher IQ that mainly drives the development of greater openness to experience.
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 of Individual Differences (Furnham & Cheng, 2016).