8 unexpected ways to spot a highly intelligent person, according to psychology

Intelligence isn’t always about acing exams or scoring high on IQ tests. It can show itself in unexpected ways.

Psychology, in its exploration of human behavior, has identified a number of surprising signs that could point to high intelligence. You might even call them unconventional markers.

Want to spot a highly intelligent person? Well, it’s not as hard as you think, and it certainly doesn’t involve them solving complex equations on the spot.

This isn’t your typical list of ‘what intelligent people do’. It’s more nuanced and interesting. So, let me guide you through 8 unexpected ways to identify a highly intelligent person, as backed by psychology.

1) They’re curious

Highly intelligent people often have a strong sense of curiosity.

Psychologists have long recognized that a curious mind often leads to heightened intelligence. It’s an innate desire to know more, to understand deeper, to explore farther.

Curiosity can take many forms – from a fascination with how things work to a deep interest in understanding human behavior. You’ll often find intelligent people asking thoughtful questions, exploring various perspectives, and seeking out new experiences.

What’s interesting is that this curiosity isn’t limited to their specific areas of expertise or interest. It’s wide-ranging and all-encompassing.

So, if you meet someone who’s always asking questions, eager to learn and not afraid to delve into unfamiliar territory, you might just be in the presence of a highly intelligent person.

2) They enjoy their own company

Here’s something I’ve noticed – highly intelligent people often enjoy solitude.

I remember a friend of mine from college. He was the kind of guy who would rather spend his weekends coding a new program or diving into a thick novel than heading out for parties. At the time, some people found it strange, but he was perfectly happy with his own company.

Psychologists suggest that intelligent people have a higher tolerance for solitude. They’re comfortable with their own thoughts and often use this time for deep reflection or pursuing their interests.

This isn’t to say that they’re antisocial. They just find value in spending time alone. It can be a sign of self-sufficiency and confidence in their abilities.

So the next time you meet someone who prefers a quiet night in over a loud party, don’t mistake it as anti-social behavior. It could just be an unexpected sign of high intelligence.

3) They adapt to change

Adapting to change is a hallmark of highly intelligent people.

In the world of psychology, this ability is often referred to as ‘fluid intelligence‘. It’s the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, without relying on pre-existing knowledge.

This means that intelligent people can quickly adjust their thinking and behavior to new circumstances. They’re not rigid in their ways and are open to changing their mind when presented with new information.

Recent studies have shown that people with high fluid intelligence are better at strategic planning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, and navigating complex situations.

So if you notice someone who seems comfortable with change, who reacts positively to new situations and quickly adapts their strategies, it could be a sign of high intelligence. They’re not just surviving in a changing environment — they’re thriving.

4) They’re observant

Highly intelligent people have a knack for being observant. They notice things that others might overlook.

Being observant isn’t just about spotting the obvious. It’s about picking up on subtle cues, seeing patterns, noticing discrepancies, and understanding the bigger picture.

These individuals often have a keen eye for detail and a heightened awareness of their surroundings. This allows them to draw connections that others might miss and come up with innovative solutions to problems.

If you come across someone who seems to notice everything, who picks up on details that you missed, or who often points out connections that you didn’t see, it could be a sign of high intelligence. They’re not just looking—they’re truly seeing.

5) They value deep conversations

Intelligent people often crave depth and meaningful interactions. They’re not just interested in small talk or idle chatter – they want to delve into substantial, thought-provoking conversations.

These individuals find satisfaction in discussing ideas, theories, or global issues. They’re less interested in what’s happening in the latest reality TV show and more curious about understanding different perspectives, cultural phenomena, or the intricacies of quantum physics.

Having a deep conversation with a highly intelligent person can be a truly enriching experience. You walk away from the discussion feeling enlightened, challenged, and inspired.

6) They embrace their mistakes

Mistakes are a part of life, and how someone handles them can be a telltale sign of their intelligence.

I remember when I was working on a big project and I made a significant error. Instead of denying it or blaming someone else, I owned up to it. It was tough, but it allowed me to learn and grow from that experience.

Highly intelligent people understand that mistakes are not failures, but opportunities for learning. They don’t shy away from them; instead, they analyze where they went wrong and how they can avoid similar errors in the future.

If you come across someone who takes responsibility for their errors and uses them as stepping stones towards improvement, you might be witnessing an unusual indication of high intelligence. 

7) They have diverse interests

Highly intelligent people often have a broad range of interests. They’re not limited to one subject or field; instead, they’re curious about a multitude of things.

From art to zoology, from literature to quantum physics, from philosophy to cooking – their interests span across various domains. And it’s not just a superficial curiosity; they strive to gain a deep understanding of these diverse topics.

This breadth of interest allows them to draw connections between seemingly unrelated fields, fostering creativity and innovation.

8) They’re open-minded

Perhaps the most important sign of high intelligence is open-mindedness.

Intelligent people understand that there’s always more to learn, more perspectives to consider, and more possibilities to explore. They’re open to new ideas, willing to consider different viewpoints, and ready to challenge their own beliefs.

They don’t cling to their opinions stubbornly; instead, they’re willing to change their mind when presented with convincing evidence or a compelling argument.

So, if you meet someone who embraces different perspectives, who is open to changing their mind, and who values learning above being right, it’s a strong indication of high intelligence.

They’re not just thinking—they’re growing.

The brain’s role

At the heart of all these traits of highly intelligent people is the fascinating organ we call the brain.

The human brain, with its billions of neurons and trillions of connections, is the powerhouse of intelligence. What makes it even more intriguing is its plasticity – the ability to change and adapt.

This plasticity allows us to learn, grow, and develop new skills throughout our lives. It’s why someone can cultivate diverse interests, adapt to change, value deep conversations, and display all the other unexpected signs of high intelligence we’ve discussed.

And most importantly, remember that every brain has this potential.

With the right stimulation and a growth mindset, we can all tap into our innate intelligence and continue to develop it throughout our lives.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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