People who are anxious have a higher verbal IQ, on average, research finds.
In particular, people with high IQs are more likely to ruminate.
Rumination is the term psychologists give to the turning over of depressing thoughts in the head.
Rumination is a common symptom of depression.
While worrying is not normally considered beneficial, it may be that people who worry tend to keep out of danger — so passing on their genes.
The benefit may be that intelligence allows people to better imagine what might go wrong.
As a result, anxiety and verbal intelligence may have evolved together.
Verbal IQ refers to being able to use language to achieve goals.
Higher levels and anxiety and IQ are also linked to superior abstract thinking, problem-solving and critical thinking.
The study involved 126 people given tests of anxiety, depression and IQ.
The results showed that people with higher verbal IQ ruminate more.
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.”
Previous research has shown that people who are low in intelligence are also prone to worry — possibly because they achieve less in life.
Average intelligence show less of a link with anxiety.
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).