Highly intelligent people are more likely to be trusting, straightforward and altruistic, research finds.
However, many people find this surprising as they do not predict that being agreeable is linked to being smart.
It may be because people guess that being ‘too nice’ is not necessarily linked with being successful in life.
The traits that people do correctly guess are linked to intelligence are:
- Openness to experience: being more open to experience is linked to higher IQ.
- Extraversion: being outgoing is linked to a higher IQ.
- Neuroticism: being neurotic is linked to lower IQ.
This shows that many of people’s beliefs about the links between personality and intelligence are correct.
People do, however, exaggerate the link — personality does not tell you as much about intelligence as people assume.
The study’s authors write that there is…
“…a general belief that intelligent people can be distinguished from less intelligent not only by their mental capacities but also by their personality dispositions.
For example, when people have been asked to name famous examples of an intelligent person, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Theresa have regularly been suggested, indicating that spiritual strength is considered an indicator of intelligence.
When lay judges are asked what they mean by the term intelligence or mental abilities, besides cognitive aptitude, they usually propose competencies related to social and interpersonal skills.”
In other words, people assume that social and interpersonal skills indicate a high IQ, but this is not necessarily true.
The results come from a study of hundreds of people in Estonia who were surveyed about the perceived links between personality and intelligence.
The most fascinating finding was that people missed the fact that intelligent people tend to be more agreeable.
The study’s authors write:
“By attributing neutral agreeableness to high-IQ individuals, respondents may express the idea that it is not always advantageous to be kind to other people.
In fact, being unselfish and sincere may sometimes work against doing well in life.
Empirical data, too, suggests that being agreeable is not always adaptive or conducive to, for example, occupational career success.”
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 (Mõttus et al., 2008).