10 habits of people who become more intelligent as they get older (according to psychology)

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When we think of an intelligent person, we think of someone who constantly reads new books or always seeks out intellectual conversations.

But there’s more to it than that—truly intelligent people just keep getting smarter as they age.

They’re always learning and adapting, constantly challenging their brains, and embracing new experiences.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the habits of these intelligent people to understand how they become even more intelligent as they age, according to psychology.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

1) They’re lifelong learners

As we age, our brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity remains.

Neuroscientist Moheb Constandi, in his book Neuroplasticity, defines the term as “the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. It is when the brain is rewired to function in some way that differs from how it previously functioned.”

This means we can continue to learn and adapt. Those who seize this opportunity tend to become more intelligent.

That’s why having a thirst for knowledge makes you more intelligent as you grow older.

You’re always seeking out new information, whether it’s from a book, a podcast, or a conversation, and you’re not just accumulating knowledge for the sake of it.

You’re actively engaging your brain, creating new neural connections, and thus becoming more intelligent over time.

2) They embrace challenges

Folks who get more intelligent with age don’t shy away from problems—they tackle them head-on.

When faced with a difficult situation, you don’t panic or get overwhelmed. Instead, you calmly analyze the issue, consider various solutions, and then take action.

This problem-solving approach is rooted in cognitive psychology.

In the Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology, Richard E. Mayer, a professor of psychology at the University of California, defines problem-solving as “cognitive processing directed at achieving a goal when the problem solver does not initially know a solution method.”

What does this mean?

It means that when we encounter obstacles in life, our brains have to work harder to find solutions.

Because when you’re solving problems, you’re not just finding immediate solutions; you’re also developing mental agility and resilience, which are skills that contribute to intelligence.

3) They stay curious

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it makes humans smarter.

In a journal article titled The Psychology and Neuroscience of Curiosity, Kidd and Hayden describe curiosity as “a motivator for learning, influential in decision-making, and crucial for healthy development.”

Active questioning keeps your brain engaged and stimulates intellectual growth. This is why, as we age, retaining a sense of curiosity helps you continue to learn and grow. 

Rather than accepting things at face value, you ask questions, probe deeper, and seek to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.

4) They value downtime

It may seem like constant activity is the key to intelligence, but in reality, those who get smarter with age understand the importance of giving their brains a rest.

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it, we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” says Tim Kreider in his New York Times article, The ‘Busy’ Trap.

Simply put, you need to relax!

Whether it’s meditation, a walk in nature, or just sitting quietly, relaxation and distraction-free time are vital for processing and consolidating information.

This downtime can boost creativity and problem-solving skills, helping you become more intelligent as you age.

5) They admit when they’re wrong

Nobody likes to be wrong, but if you want to be more intelligent as you age, you shouldn’t be afraid to admit it.

“You can only learn from a mistake after you admit you’ve made it. As soon as you start blaming other people (or the world), you distance yourself from any possible lesson,” says Emily Roberts, MA, LPC, in her article, Mistakes Lead to Amazing Learning Opportunities.

What this shows us is that being wrong is an opportunity to learn and grow.

As you get older, you shouldn’t just be interested in protecting your ego—be interested in gaining more knowledge and understanding.

This humility and openness to new information are key factors in becoming smarter as you get older.

6) They listen more than they speak

To become more intelligent with age, you need to know the value of listening.

Understand that everyone you meet knows something you don’t, which is why you should try to listen more than you talk—that way, you’re able to learn new ideas and perspectives.

As Amy Gallo, author of the article Active Listening from the Harvard Business Review, put it, active listening “turns a conversation into an active, non-competitive, two-way interaction.”

This habit not only enriches their understanding of the world, but it also fosters empathy and compassion, further enhancing their intelligence in a holistic way.

7) They step out of their comfort zones

We all love our comfort zones. They’re safe, predictable, and… well, comfortable.

But to become more intelligent as you age, you shouldn’t be afraid to step out of it.

When you step out of your comfort zone, you’re able to see a whole new world—bigger than the one you’re currently in. 

“Stepping out of your comfort zone means learning new things, meeting new people, seeing new places, and trying new experiences.

“All of these can serve to help expand your awareness of the world and how you fit into it and may introduce you to new interests or areas of study you want to explore,” says Jessica Kent in her article, Is It Time to Leave Your Comfort Zone? How Leaving Can Spark Positive Change at the Harvard Summer School.

Because new experiences, however daunting, are opportunities for learning and growth. 

So whether it’s trying a new cuisine or learning a new language, be up for the challenge!

8) They laugh at themselves

Did you know that laughing at yourself makes you healthier?

When I first read about this idea, I thought it was cringey. But it actually has real-life benefits.

A 2011 study by Beerman and Zuch revealed that people who are able to laugh at themselves show fewer fake smiles and negative emotions.

Neat, huh?

Laughing at yourself not only keeps you grounded; it also reduces stress and boosts your mood, fostering a positive environment for learning and growth.

While we all make mistakes and have awkward moments, those who become more intelligent with age embrace these moments with good humor.

9) They avoid procrastination

Let’s face it: we all procrastinate sometimes.

But those who get more intelligent as they age know that delaying tasks only leads to stress and subpar results.

In fact, according to this article, many studies have found that those with high EQ tend to procrastinate less than those with low EQ.

This is because when you handle your emotions better, you also understand the value of time and use it wisely.

If there’s a task at hand, you get to it immediately instead of pushing it off. This discipline will not only increase productivity but also sharpen your problem-solving skills.

10) They maintain a growth mindset

Above all, people who become more intelligent as they age have a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence isn’t fixed but something that can be developed over time.

“People who have a growth mindset believe that even if they struggle with certain skills, their abilities aren’t set in stone,” says Amanda Morin in her article What is Growth Mindset? at understood.org.

What this means is that those with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities for growth, effort as a path to mastery, and mistakes as valuable lessons.

By cultivating this mindset, you continually learn, adapt, and enhance your intelligence. 

Reflecting on the journey of growing intelligence

Becoming more intelligent as we age isn’t a race or a competition. It’s continually learning, adapting, growing, and evolving.

As psychologist Carol Dweck highlights, “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.”

So if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember: you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You just need to be open to learning and growing, whatever form that may take.

In the end, intelligence isn’t about knowing everything; it’s about the desire to know more.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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