Signs Of High IQ: The Comprehensive Guide

Signs of intelligence include better rhythm, liking dark humour, being prone to worry, sleeping late, high self-control and new ideas.

Signs of intelligence include better rhythm, liking dark humour, being prone to worry, sleeping late, high self-control and new ideas.

Signs of intelligence are many and varied and go way beyond a standard IQ test.

This is partly because intelligence has so many different aspects to it.

There are many ways to tell if a person is intelligent, including good communication skills, self-control and being co-operative.

The types of behaviours that an intelligent person displays include the ability to see both sides of an argument, flexibility and the desire for learning.

Intelligent people tend to seek out new information and want to expand their skills and the opportunity to use them.

Some famously intelligent people include Elon Musk, whose IQ is around 155 and Albert Einstein, whose IQ was believed to be somewhere between 160 and 165.

Here are 23 signs of intelligence from the psychological research with more information on each of the studies.

1. Rhythmic signs of intelligence

People with high IQs find it easier to keep time, research finds.

This has nothing to do with being musical, just the simple ability to tap out a regular rhythm.

Good timing seems to be built in at a fundamental level to the brains of more intelligent people, making it one of the subtler signs of intelligence.

Brain scans also revealed a link between high intelligence, ability to keep time and more white matter in parts of the brain linked to planning, problem solving and managing time.

2. Dreaming

Being a daydreamer is a sign of intelligence and being creative, research concludes.

The result comes from a study in which over 100 people had their brains scanned while they stared at a fixed point for five minutes.

The researchers wanted to see how their brains worked in unison when they were given nothing in particular to do.

People whose brains worked more efficiently had greater intellectual abilities and also reported more daydreaming in their everyday lives.

3. Funny

People who appreciate dark humour are likely to be more intelligent, research finds.

Those who prefer twisted comedy also score higher on tests of emotional stability.

To get twisted humour, it seems you need to be laidback and clever.

The reason intelligence may be linked to appreciating dark humour is that it can take a little work.

4. Mental illness

Disorders of mood could be the price some people pay for high intelligence, recent research finds.

Psychologists have found that higher childhood IQ is linked to features of bipolar disorder in young adulthood.

The research adds fuel to the debate over the connection between intelligence, creativity and mental health issues.

Other studies now suggest a link between intelligence and mental illness that may go back into our evolutionary past.

The increased signs of intelligence of Homo sapiens was originally a result of gene mutations.

The cost of these gene mutations, however, may have been an increase in mental illness (Nithianantharajah et al., 2012).

Other studies on this do not agree, though, finding that people with high IQs enjoy better mental health.

5. Perceptual signs of intelligence

Having stronger basic perceptual skills is another of many signs of intelligence, research finds.

For example, they can tell which way objects are moving more quickly.

They are also better at blocking out background information to make their judgement.

A higher IQ makes the brain faster at a fundamental level.

6. Worrying

People of high intelligence are more prone to anxiety than those of moderate intelligence.

Indeed, anxiety may have co-evolved with intelligence — worrying may have given early humans a survival benefit in the ancient past (Coplan et al., 2012).

It’s just a pity that it’s left intelligent people with higher levels of anxiety disorders.

7. Larger pupils

People with larger pupils have higher intelligence and the difference is visible to the naked eye, research finds.

A larger pupil size reflects both a higher fluid intelligence and a greater working memory capacity.

The pupils are the black part at the centre of the eye which dilate in response to changes in light.

Psychologists have found they also respond to brain activity: the faster our brains are working, the more the pupil widens.

8. New ideas

Set against the higher levels of mental illness and anxiety, is the fact that one of the signs of intelligence is being more likely to come up with new ideas.

Historically, that might mean rejecting superstition and finding new ways of organising society.

One study argues that this explains why more intelligent people are more likely to be atheists and more likely to be politically liberal (Kanazawa et al., 2010).

This study found that young adults who described themselves as ‘very conservative’ had an average IQ of 95, while those who described themselves as ‘very liberal’ had an average IQ of 106.

9. Tall

Being taller is one of many signs of intelligence, research finds.

The reason is that the genes that are correlated with height are also correlated with intelligence.

The conclusion comes from a study of the DNA of 6,815 people.

Of course, there are still people who are short and intelligent, plus those who are tall and dim.

But, on average, there is a small association between being taller and having higher intelligence.

10. Loners

The more that intelligent people socialise with their friends, the less satisfied they are with life, recent research finds.

The finding challenges the accepted idea that socialising generally makes people happier.

It may be that for some people — especially those with high intelligence — socialising does not increase life satisfaction.

The possible reason why is intriguing…

11. Sleeping late

Another or these signs of intelligence is going to bed later and getting up later (Kanazawa & Perina, 2009).

The study examined the sleep habits of 20,745 adolescent Americans and found that on a weekday the ‘very dull’ went to bed at an average of 11:41 and woke up at 7:20.

In contrast, the ‘very bright’ went to bed at 12:29 and got up at 7:52. At the weekend the differences were even more pronounced.

12. Do drugs

People with higher intelligence are more likely to use drugs — which is one of the more surprising signs of intelligence.

The link is particularly strong for women.

This is despite the fact that higher IQ is often linked to living a healthier lifestyle.

The results can be explained in both positive and negative ways.

For example, intelligent people are known to be more open to new experiences.

At the same time, intelligent people are also more easily bored and may be more likely to be picked on in childhood.

13. Being trusting

Intelligent people are more likely to trust others, according to a new analysis of US public opinion poll data.

This may be because more intelligent people are better judges of character.

They found that people who were more trusting were also happier and had higher levels of physical health.

14. Financial patience

People with high IQs are more patient in financial matters, research finds.

They are willing to wait longer to increase their money and to endure the risks involved.

Intelligent people did not demand so much reward for taking the risk.

It seems that signs of intelligence, risk tolerance and patience are closely related.

15. Lazy

Lazy people are more likely to enjoy thinking, new research finds.

On the other hand, those with who don’t enjoy it need to ‘do more stuff’ in order to escape their own thoughts.

Previous studies have found that people who like to think more have better memories and often take more time to make decisions and end up making better ones.

16. Accept confusion and vagueness

People with higher intelligence find it easier to accept confusion and vagueness.

Many problems in life do not have a definitive answer — and intelligent people can deal with this more easily.

More intelligent people can make better decisions because they are able to accept ambiguity, researchers have found.

17. Attractive

Attractive people are also likely to be more intelligent.

People who are physically attractive can have IQs up to 14 percent higher than the less attractive.

The results come from data on 17,419 children in the UK who have been followed since 1958.

Attractive male children have 13.6 more IQ points than their unattractive peers.

Meanwhile, female children have 11.4 more IQ points.

18. Curious

Curiosity is a sign of being smart, research suggests.

Curiosity could even be as important as intelligence in how well people do in life.

People who are curious ask lots of questions, look for surprises, seek out sensations and make time to search out new ideas.

Intelligence, along with curiosity and some personality factors, predicts successful performance in many areas.

19. Less aggressive

People with higher IQs are less aggressive and tend to follow the rules, research suggests.

Since higher intelligence is linked to better behaviour, intelligent people are less likely to steal and cheat.

In contrast, younger people with lower IQs are more likely to alarm and harass others, as well as taking part in antisocial behaviour.

Antisocial boys typically have IQ scores 10 points lower than their more social peers.

20. Self-controlled

Having stronger self-control is a sign of higher intelligence, research finds.

Faced with temptation, more intelligent people stay cooler.

In the study, those with higher intelligence waited longer for a larger reward.

21. Cooperative

Being cooperative is another of these signs of intelligence, recent research finds.

More intelligent people tend to be cautious with their trust at first, then build it up with experience.

People who are cooperative tend to be more helpful, believe in teamwork and be mutually supportive.

In addition, those who are cooperative tend to be better at seeing the big picture and learning from experience.

22. Enjoying new ideas

Being willing to entertain new, unconventional ideas is the strongest personality trait linked to high fluid intelligence, research finds.

Preferring variety and new activities over routine and sameness are signs of intelligence, the same survey found.

People with with these signs of intelligence are more likely to enjoy philosophical arguments, brain teasers, new problems and eccentric or uncommon activities.

Fluid intelligence refers to the speed at which the brain works.

It is like the raw power of an engine or the speed at which a computer can process information.

23. Feeling happier

People who feel happier tend to have a higher IQ, studies find.

In fact, experiencing positive emotions, feeling lively and wide awake all predict higher intelligence.

The idea that more intelligent people tend to be grumpy or unhappy is probably not true, on average.

Part of this link between intelligence and happiness may be down to life circumstances.

More intelligent people tend to be better off, have higher levels of education and consequently have better jobs.


Author: Jeremy Dean

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, 2013) and several ebooks.

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