11 random things that make people think you’re more intelligent, according to psychology

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Myth: Being smart is ONLY about getting perfect scores or having an extensive vocabulary.

Truth: In its truest form, intelligence is as diverse as the individuals who embody it.

The signs of intelligence are way more varied and exciting than grades or sophisticated language. 

A lot of times, being brilliant shows up in the less obvious ways. It’s all around us and is part of our daily lives. We rarely just make a big deal about it.

And that’s what we’re about to tackle next: 11 unexpected and random things that make people think you’re more intelligent, according to psychology.

Let’s get going!

1) You’re into puzzles

Your love for Sudoku, the Rubik’s cube, chess, Go, crosswords, escape rooms, and logic games makes you seem smart in the eyes of the people around you.

You know how you instantly relate a gym buff to their physical fitness? That’s the same way people associate your puzzle-solving skills with your brain’s ability.

And it looks like that’s a fair assumption.

According to semiotics professor and Psychology Today contributor Dr Marcel Danesi’s cautious yet expert opinion, engagement in puzzles enhances brain activity.

To be fair, he admits that studies have mixed results regarding the impact of puzzles on improving brain health and activity. 

But then again, he also presents enough evidence and has strong reasons to think that puzzles can really help improve our brain function.

2) You’re a night owl

There are insomniacs who stay up all night because they can’t sleep. And then there are night owls – people who find their brain works better in the stillness of the night.

I remember during my high school and university days when our parents and guardians associated our lack of sleep with how much we spent studying. 

Of course, the truth was a lot of those hours were spent on, let’s just say, “extracurricular activities”.

But in our defense, multiple researches done by psychologists found that people who liked staying up late tend to be more intelligent.

One study examined the relationship between childhood IQ scores and sleeping habits in adulthood. The findings reveal that kids with high IQs became night owls in adulthood.

Another study looked at 420 air force recruits and found that those who identified as night people scored higher on IQ tests than their morning-type peers.

In short, while the early bird does catch the worm, the night owl also snags brilliant ideas from under the stars.

3) You’re into dark humor

This is probably the most random sign of intelligence on this list. 

But people with a thing for dark humor know that their fellow twisted comedy fans have impressive intellects, just like them. As they say, it takes one to know one.

And experts know this, too.

Research done by Austrian cognitive processing specialists uncovered evidence linking dark humor appreciation to higher intelligence.

Long story short, their findings reveal that individuals who get a kick out of darker jokes typically score higher in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence.

4) You daydream

Most people might think you’re distracted or disinterested. 

But those who know better don’t take it against you when they catch you drifting into deep thought. 


Because they understand that intelligent people use daydreaming as a sign of a creative and problem-solving mind. In other words, intelligent.

In fact, neuropsychologists from Georgia Tech conducted a study in 2015 related to daydreaming.

They found that daydreamers have unique connections in their brains, linking parts that handle deep thoughts and creativity. 

That means your daydreaming is more than just moments lost in thought. 

They’re actual signs that you’re sharper and more creative than you realize, especially when it comes to solving complex puzzles and coming up with new ideas.

5) You are creative 

Speaking of creativity, this is one of the most common signs that people think you’re more intelligent.

But what if I told you that wasn’t always the case?

There was an old line of thinking regarding the two sides of the brain:

The right side was believed to be the home of logic and analytical thinking, suggesting those people were the “real thinkers” or more intelligent.

On the other hand, the left side was seen as the cradle of creativity and imagination, marking its people as the “true creatives.” 

This old idea painted intelligence and creativity as separate, almost opposite traits.

But recent understanding has blurred these lines.

Dr Jonathan Wai, assistant professor in education policy and psychology, shares his thoughts on this:

He believes there’s a significant overlap between intelligence and creativity. He highlights Stefani Germanotta’s (Lady Gaga) transformation as an example. 

He talks about how she was really smart when she was younger, showing that you can be super creative in music and still be intelligent.

This mix of creativity and smarts, he says, is crucial for coming up with new ideas. 

In short, he suggests that creating something new and exciting requires a combination of creative touch and intellectual flair.

6) You are left-handed

Being left-handed is already enough to make you stand out in a predominantly right-handed world. 

But what if I told you people also see this as a sign that you’re more intelligent than the rest of the crowd?

This perception probably comes from the fact that Einstein, Newton, and Marie Curie, to name a few, are left-handers.

While psychologists don’t agree that left-handed people are smarter by default, they do suggest that lefties might be better at creative thinking and devising unique solutions. 

7) You are a skeptic

Skepticism has always had a somewhat unfair association with toxic levels of negativity. 

But if you’re a self-confessed skeptic, don’t fret.

Interestingly, some people see your skepticism as a mark of your above-average intelligence. 

Psychologists share the same viewpoint just as much.

They say that skeptics like you don’t take things at face value. 

They believe this questioning attitude makes you smarter than most because it allows you to dig deeper and gather as much evidence as possible before forming an opinion. 

8) You’re worried a lot

Your constant worry might lead people to think you’re an anxious individual

But it can also convince others that you’re brighter than most.

While anxiety can be crippling and not a joke to those severely affected by it, psychiatrists shed some positive light on this:

Dr. Jeremy Coplan and his colleagues studied people affected with anxiety disorders and found those with more pronounced symptoms demonstrated higher IQ scores compared to those with less severe ones.

9) You read early as a child

I don’t know if it’s simply a  superstition, but I distinctly remember adults asking how old we kids were when we first learned to read. 

Our elders thought that the earlier we read, the more intelligent we were.

Interestingly, it turns out this was more than just an unfounded belief.

A British study published in 2015 found that learning to read early on can boost one’s intelligence, not just in verbal areas like vocabulary but also in non-verbal reasoning. 

And once again, our elders were right all along.

10) You’ve had music lessons early

Some kids read early, while some played a musical instrument in tune in their toddlerhood.

If you’re more of the second group, the good news is that people view your intelligence like they do the early readers.

Think about it:

Learning to play an instrument is an exercise in patience and discipline, but it also works on cognitive development.

Here’s proof:

A study by psychologist Sylvain Moreno found that kids got a lot better at using words after doing music lessons for 20 days, unlike kids who studied art instead. 

This exciting research makes a strong case for your early music skills as a marker of your intelligence.

11) You have impressive self-control

Ever heard of the quote, “If you can learn self-control, you can master anything”? 

Well, it turns out there’s some truth to that, especially when it comes to how people see your smarts. 

Psychologists found that people who are good at waiting for more significant rewards later rather than jumping at smaller ones now tend to be sharper overall. 

They concluded that the ability to delay gratification, indicative of self-control, is not only a sign of intelligence but is also associated with activity in a brain region linked to managing complex tasks and goals.

In short, it’s safe to assume that better self-control = better brain function.

The takeaway

Here’s hoping this article opened our eyes to how we see intelligence. 

It’s not just about academic success. 

It can also be the most random of things, like enjoying puzzles, staying up late, or finding certain jokes funny.

Intelligence is all around us in everyday actions and choices. 

It’s just a matter of perspective.

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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