Being smart means more than just scoring well on tests or ruling trivia night at your neighborhood bar. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines human intelligence as a “mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experiences, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts and use knowledge to manipulate one’s own environment.” So maybe you adjust easily to new surroundings. You also might have a knack for figuring out the plot twists in movies. Perhaps you have a quick wit. Or if you encounter a dilemma, you usually know the best decision to make. Do these things mean that you’re brainier than most? Read on to learn which traits have been scientifically proven to make you above average in smarts.
1. You’re Funny
Do people tell you that you’re hilarious? Then you might also have superior intelligence. According to psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee, research suggests that several factors of intelligence are important in producing humor — namely crystalized intelligence and fluid intelligence.
Forshee says, “Crystalized intelligence involves knowledge that comes from formal education and life experiences. Meanwhile, fluid intelligence involves being able to think abstractly and solve problems.” So when creating humor, crystalized intelligence is expressed through language and witty material, while fluid intelligence accesses conflicting or distant material. “Overall, theories of humor suggest that even coming up with simple jokes requires accessing, maintaining and mixing conflicting ideas and information,” according to Forshee.
Up next: Got brothers and sisters? This next trait might spark a little sibling rivalry.
2. You Were a First-Born Child
If you’re the oldest in your family, then you tend to be an ambitious, achievement-minded leader, according to Dr. Frank J. Sulloway, author of “Born to Rebel,” as published on Insider. But psychologist Dr. Sal Raichbach from Ambrosia Treatment Center says that being a first-born child may also mean you’re one smart cookie.
Raichbach explains, “Research suggests that first-born children have a mental edge. This is attributed to the extra nurturing the first child receives during the early critical stages of development, compared to younger siblings who always have to share the attention.”
Up next: This next trait proves that appearances aren’t always deceiving.
3. You Wear Glasses
Besides looking brainy, there’s truth in the assumption that glasses wearers tend to be smarter than most individuals. In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Edinburgh analyzed cognitive and genetic data collected by the UK Biobank and the CHARGE and COGENT consortia from over 300,000 people between the ages of 16 and 102.
The study found “significant genetic overlap between general cognitive function, reaction time and many health variables — including eyesight, hypertension and longevity.” Specifically, people who were more intelligent were almost 30 percent more likely to have genes that signify they might need to wear glasses.
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4. You’re Adaptive
If you consider yourself a “go with the flow” kind of person, you might be gifted in brain power. Clinical psychologist Ana Jovanovic says, “Intelligent people can analyze their own behavior and the behavior of others and choose to act in the way they feel would help them adapt to the situation. They can employ their abilities to find solutions to problems.” Research supports these claims by showing a positive connection between intelligence and social adjustment.
Jovanovic elaborates: “The people with higher social and emotional intelligence, as well as the people who tend to have higher verbal abilities, are better able to find a common language with others. They are more likely to be able to find other people as resources and support in helping them deal with challenges.”
Up next: This controversial characteristic goes against nature.
5. You’re a Night Owl
If you find yourself staying up late, binge-watching “Game of Thrones” may not be the only reason. Licensed psychologist and licensed professional counselor Candice Hopper-Owrey says it’s linked to above-average intelligence. She explains, “This comes from the idea that the ability to stay up late is evolutionary. That is, it is more natural for activities to occur during the day. So night activities are overriding the more natural order. In fact, the researchers argue that often higher IQ is demonstrated in behaviors our early ancestors would not have displayed.”
Hopper-Owrey cites a study by an evolutionary psychologist and intelligence researcher Satoshi Kanazawa, which stated that high-IQ individuals in their 20s also had past-midnight average bedtimes. “To explain it simply, it’s an ability that early man didn’t have. And abilities early men did not have generally point to evolutionary changes and, thus, a higher intellect.”
Up next: Embrace chaos? Your intelligence could be to blame.
6. You’re Messy
If your workspace and surroundings are constantly in disarray, it might have something to do with your brain capacity. Hopper-Owrey explains, “We are taught early on that it is important to be neat and orderly. If you are messy, you are going against what society says is correct. In other words, this is more independent thinking because these individuals are able to ignore their environment to focus on their present area of attention.” She adds, “This also highlights higher thinking, as they are not as distractible. Essentially, they aren’t tied to social norms. They can think for themselves.”
Up next: Eager to know what the next trait is? You may be smarter than the rest.
7. You Have a Sense of Curiosity
Why was Macchu Picchu built? What kind of food is balut? If you’re one of those people who has an endless desire to learn as much as you can, it may point to intelligence. Clinical psychologist Ana Jovanovic says, “Intelligent people are insatiable learners. They are aware of how much there is to learn. Since grasping new concepts seems relatively easy, it almost feels natural to look for more opportunities to learn. They challenge their own thinking and the thinking of others. To do that, they ask questions that can be quite profound.”
Psychologist and licensed professional counselor Candice Hopper-Owrey adds, “When you’re curious about something, your memory circuits are stimulated and your brain will make more connections. Thus, you are likely to remember it more.”
Up next: This brainy attribute will probably strike a chord with you.
8. You Play (or Have Played) a Musical Instrument
Guitar gods, pianists and all other instrumentalists, rejoice! You potentially have a higher level of intelligence. According to clinical psychologist Ana Jovanovic, “Intelligence can be significantly improved by playing a musical instrument. Several studies show that. For example, a 2004 study found that 6-year-olds who took music lessons had an IQ boost as compared with kids who took drama lessons or no classes at all.” In addition, she lists a 2011 study that concluded that after 20 days of training, children between 4 and 6 who took music lessons excelled at a verbal intelligence test.
“Playing music requires us to coordinate our thoughts and motoric capabilities to produce a melody,” states Jovanovic. “Learning how to play an instrument at an early age helps us affect our brain plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change — physically, functionally and chemically — throughout life.”
Up next: Believe it or not, intelligence may play a role in this particular point of view.
9. You’re Open-Minded
Are you open-minded and accepting of different types of people and lifestyles? It might be a sign of intelligence. Clinical psychologist Ana Jovanovic states, “Intelligent people believe they can accept the existence of multiple perspectives and can think about them without losing the sense of clarity. They are equipped with mental skills to step into another person’s shoes and understand their choices. Ambiguity is not something that causes anxiety for them, but implies the need to understand.”
Up next: Trouble sleeping? Can’t seem to turn off your brain? Get ready to experience an “aha moment.”
10. You Tend to Worry or Have Anxiety
If you’re constantly overanalyzing everything, you may be brainier than most. Jovanovic explains, “Anxiety is an adaptive trait. It makes us more alert to potential dangers. Intelligent people tend to worry more because they understand what kind of situations they need to be ready to handle efficiently.”
She recalls, “In one research study, it was found that among the participants suffering from anxiety disorders, higher IQ score was connected to higher worry level.” However, just because one is intelligent doesn’t automatically mean he or she suffers from anxiety. She says, “I wonder what would happen if we included factors outside of intelligence, such as emotional support from the people you care about. There are also many situational factors that can contribute to developing anxiety.”
Up next: If you won’t ever settle for so-so, this may be why.
11. You Need More to Feel Happy
Do you feel like you’re never really satisfied with everything in your life? “Intelligent people tend to not simply feel, they understand the basis of their feelings. People would say that they tend to intellectualize their emotions. They tend to go deeper into what it means to be happy, loved, fulfilled,” says psychologist Ana Jovanovic.
Jovanovic adds that this trait is especially visible in those with high verbal, emotional and social intelligence — who tend to need more successfully met criteria in order to be happy. “People may call them complicated because of it,” she says. “In fact, they just tend to have higher demands for themselves, people and life in general.”
What Do YOU Think?
Do you have any of these traits? Which of these surprised you the most? Share your stories in the comments below!
Michelle Spencer is a writer, music addict, and fitness devotee. Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to L.A. in 2007 and has tried nearly every type of Crunch workout class – from Pound™ and 2FLY to Jillian Michaels’ Bodyshred and Diesel. (Running, weights, yoga, and spin are her staples.) She has also written for Thrillist, Brobible/Guyism, and Dame.