14 signs you’re more intelligent than you think you are

Do you think you’re a smart person?

If your answer is no, then you may actually be smarter than you think.

According to a Cornell University study, smart people are more likely to think they’re not very smart, while less intelligent people tend to overestimate their competence.

As Shakespeare said:

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”.

Here some other signs that might show that you’re smarter than you think.

1. You have high self-control

Self-control is an important facet of intelligence and if you possess it, then you might be smarter than you think.

A 2009 Yale study gave participants IQ tests and offered them reward money (they could receive this award immediately or later (for more).

Those who chose to wait also had higher IQ scores, suggesting resisting making impulsive decisions correlates with intelligence.

Marya Mannes says it best:

“The sign of an intelligent people is their ability to control their emotions by the application of reason.”

2. You’re a great problem solver

True intelligent people make great problem solvers because they don’t stick to rules and regulations.

They don’t approach problems with a fixed idea of what the solution should look like.

When they address a problem, they approach it from multiple different perspectives.

More importantly, they don’t assume they’re right and likely ask people to look at the problem with them.

They don’t assume that they are the best person in the room and serve mostly as mediators between problem and solution.

They listen more than they talk, they evaluate more than they act, and they collaborate instead of dictate.

3. You’re Observant

You can’t be intelligent without being observant. You have to have your eyes open, quite literally and figuratively.

As such, intelligent people make great observers.

Instead of taking the front stage, they’ll be blending quietly in the background and soaking in as much information as they can.

They are not quick to judge and instead are keen on hearing about what other people have to say instead of indulging knee-jerk reactions.

Intelligent people might be quiet and silent but they definitely see a lot more detail than those who never pause to think and listen.

4. You’re fluid with their opinions

Too many people never change their minds.

People take pride in the things they believe in and start associating their sense of self with their rigid and permanent opinions.

How many times have you seen a person argue to the death for an opinion that everyone around them knows to be wrong?

Intelligent people don’t associate their egos with their opinions, which is why they can so easily say, “I was wrong.”

They aren’t afraid of admitting that something they once believed in is actually incorrect and that they now believe in something else because they have more evidence or proof.

5. You meditate

If you meditate, then you might be more emotionally intelligent than you think.

Meditation is well-known for its calming effects. When you take the time out of your day to actually just sit down, think, and breathe, you unbind yourself from the stresses of the world and give your mind and body the opportunity to stretch out and relax.

But meditation has also been found to help people have control over their own brain waves.

Not convinced? In 1992, scientists were invited to study the Dalai Lama’s brain waves while he was in a state of meditation.

The researchers found that when focusing on a certain emotion such as compassion, the Dalai Lama and the other monks could enter into a state of emotional being that was at a higher and deeper level than what most people feel.

According to the Wired article that reported on the study:

“The researchers had never seen anything like it. Worried that something might be wrong with their equipment or methods, they brought in more monks, as well as a control group of college students inexperienced in meditation. The monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times as strong as the students’. In addition, larger areas of the meditators’ brains were active, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions.”

So if you meditate, not only might you be calmer but you may also be emotionally smarter, too.

6. You’re a musician

Do you play a musical instrument? Then you might be smarter than you think.

There is a separate region of the brain that processes music and it plays a key role in enhancing our language and memory skill.

Some studies have suggested that musicians have better cognitive functions. 

When we play musical instruments, the brain is stimulated in the corpus callosum, which is the part which links both hemispheres of the brain and creates new connections.

No matter how old you may be, you can still experience mental improvements from strumming a few keys.

7. You speak another language

If you speak multiple languages, then you might be smarter than you think. 

According to the NY Times, studies have found that bilingual people are better at puzzle-solving than their monolingual counterparts.

When you adopt a new language, your brain performs better with mentally strenuous problems and activities, even if those activities have nothing to do with language itself.

According to a study in Brazil on the effect of bilingualism on cognitive and auditory abilities in normally hearing adults, it “showed that bilinguals had a better performance for the general cognitive function, with a statistically significant difference, as well as for cognitive abilities of verbal, spatial and mechanical reasoning.”

Languages can also influence us so directly that speaking in a new language can even change your personality.

8. You enjoy spending time alone

If you enjoy being alone and don’t feel a constant urge to be around others, then you might be more intelligent than you think.

A study published in the “British Journal of Psychology” showed a correlation between contentedness with being alone and intelligence.

After all, alone time is a great time to reflect, prioritize, and plan, which increases self-control.

9. You’re curious

If you love to learn, then you might be smarter than you think.

A study from Goldsmiths University of London found that “how people invest their time and effort in their intellect” (i.e. feeding their curiosity) plays a huge role in cognitive growth.

The curiosity quotient (CQ) is defined as how powerfully motivated individuals are to learn about something of interest.

The Harvard Business Review reports that people with a higher CQ generate original ideas more frequently and their thinking style allows them to acquire more knowledge than people who have a lower CQ.

These individuals are more inquisitive and their curiosity inspires them to understand the subject matter in a more detailed manner.

Psychology research from Georgia Tech also showed that those with high curiosity are more tolerant of ambiguity, which requires a sophisticated thinking style.

Perhaps this is why one of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein, said “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

10. You have high emotional intelligence

Many experts now believe that a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) may be more important than their IQ, and plays a larger role in the achievement of success, the quality of relationships, and overall happiness.

Emotional intelligence is an important facet of intelligence, and if you understand and are in control of your own emotions, while also understanding other people’s emotions, then you might be smarter than you think.

Fortunately, EQ is something that can be learned and developed over a lifetime.

“Our feeling is not there to be cast out or conquered. They’re there to engaged and expressed with imagination and Intelligence.” – T.K Coleman.

11. You read fiction

Reading fiction might not just be for fun, but it may also make you more intelligent as well.

According to psychologist Keith Stanovich in CNBC, “if smarter means having a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge…then reading may well make people smarter.”

He says that research has supported this finding “time and again”.

Furthermore, people who read fiction may show higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence, according to studies in the Public Library of Science and the Journal of Research in Personality.

12. You are forgetful

Sound strange? Let me explain.

You’ve probably heard of the ‘absent-minded professor’.

This basically means that because highly intelligent individuals overload their minds with in-depth thinking and information, they forget to do the most basic things.

This is why smart people enter a room and forget why they’re there.

In a report, researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards of the University of Toronto proposed that the goal of memory is not to transmit the most accurate information over time, but to make decision-making efficient by holding onto what’s important and letting go of what’s not.

“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world.”

So, the next time you forget where your keys are or where you put the remote, remember that it’s just because you’re highly intelligent mind is getting in your way.

13. You worry and overthink

Surely smart people would never doubt themselves, right?


Excessive worry might not be such a negative trait after all — a new small study suggests that such worry may have evolved in people along with intelligence.

The results show, among people with an anxiety disorder, high IQ scores were associated with high levels of worry.

Smart people know that life is far too complicated to be black and white. The desire for truth and knowledge is a slippery slope with lots of different angles and perspectives to consider.

This can cause a genius to doubt themselves and question whether they’re looking at the problem in the right way. After all, they can see countless ways to approach it.

Unfortunately, this constant thinking can lead to anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

After reading this, if you still believe that you’re not a genius, you might want to think again.

Throw away all of those IQ tests you’ve ever done and consider this:

We’re all good at something. So treat yourself like a genius and nurture your creativity. It’s the only way to fulfill your incredible potential.

14. You reflect and think

So what makes an intelligent person smart?

It might simply be the fact that they’re more emotionally mature than their less intelligent counterparts.

An intelligent person is someone who routinely takes the time to enjoy their own solitude, to reflect, meditate, and dive deep into their introspection.

They think about the things they believe in, the reasons why they have certain habits and behaviors and try to understand themselves more and more each day.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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