8 signs you’re smarter than you realize, according to psychology

Sometimes, you might wonder where you sit in terms of intelligence.

Are you above or below average? Are you seriously smart or in serious trouble?

You could take an IQ test, but these tests only measure certain kinds of intelligence related to logic, concrete reasoning, and verbal communication.

However, according to psychologists like Howard Gardner, there are a lot more components to intelligence that vary widely among different people. Gardner identified first eight and then nine components in his Multiple Intelligence Theory. Since then, other psychologists have either added more or subdivided these components.

Whether there’s only one general intelligence with multiple components or several intelligences working together is a question for academics.

But what’s certain is that there are signs when a person is intelligent that almost everyone can pick up on.

So, if you’re wondering where you stand, here are eight signs you’re smarter than you realize, according to psychology.

1) You’re curious.

I don’t mean that you’re a weirdo. I mean, you might be, but that’s got nothing to do with it!

What I mean here is that you have a natural, deep curiosity about the world and the multitude of things in it.

If you’re the kind of person who is always looking at things and deeper into things, trying to uncover layers and learn more, you’re a curious person.

And that probably means that you’re smarter than average, as well.

A study published in 2022 looked at ‘epistemic curiosity’, which they defined as a “desire to acquire new knowledge elicited by new and complex ideas or conceptual ambiguities”.

We’re talking about stories with plot twists and surprise endings or looking into unanswered questions and giving them deep consideration.

The study found that people who had this sort of curiosity also had higher levels of crystallized intelligence representing things like facts and figures stored in their brains.

In other words, curious people go out and look for information and thereby enrich their experiences and environments. That helps them learn and retain more than people who don’t seem to have this insatiable curiosity.

2) You’re healthy.

No one can say that being smart makes you healthy or if being healthy makes you smart.

And yet, there actually is some evidence that more intelligent people enjoy somewhat better health.

The cause-and-effect relationship isn’t quite worked out yet, however.

But, this massive study from 2018 found a clear overlap between general cognitive function and reaction time with improved eyesight, blood pressure, and longevity.

In other words, people who were brighter and quicker were longer-living and healthier in some ways. The other thing this study found was that a lot of these markers of health were genetic, which shows that intelligence likely is, too.

If your parents are smart and healthy, this means there’s a very good chance that you will be, too.

3) You like to read.

Sometimes, the activities that you find yourself engaged in can be signs of your intelligence.

Reading is a great example.

We have a lot of stereotypes connecting reading to intelligence with everything from bright bookworms to clever librarians.

Sure, you need to have a certain level of intelligence to be able to read in the first place. It also makes sense that people who spend time reading might pick up more facts and information than people who watch sitcoms instead.

But there’s finally real proof that reading is connected with intelligence. 

This twin study from 2014 demonstrated that even between twins, people who read more would score higher on intelligence tests. They also found that a twin who reads more than their sibling will have better reading skills.

Of course!

Is that why they do better on tests – they’re better at reading and understanding the questions?

Even if this is the case, that’s still a sign of intelligence.

And even though the jury’s out on whether reading makes you smart or smarting makes you read (!), the association is strong here.

So if you love to read, you’re likely more intelligent than you think.

4) You’re good at writing.

If you’re good at writing, you’re pretty much a genius. I’m sure of it!

OK, so I might be a little bit biased.

But if you think about the act of writing, there are still a lot of reasons why it can show that you’re an intelligent person.

First off, writing well requires a lot of linguistic skills, and this relates to what Gardner called linguistic-verbal intelligence.

You need to know how to choose the right words and grammatical structures to get your point across or tell a story effectively. And this study found that people who are good at writing definitely have high linguistic-verbal intelligence.

It just makes sense!

But there are other points to consider, too.

Being able to structure a logical argument or move through a storyline well can demonstrate logical-mathematical intelligence.

Being able to express emotions in your writing requires inter and intra-personal intelligence.

Developing new characters, plots, and even full worlds requires a healthy dose of creativity.

All this adds up to writing being an intellectual hobby!

5) You daydream.

Do you find that your mind wanders and even goes on great adventures when you’re sitting around with nothing to do?

This can be a sign that you have higher intelligence than you might think. That goes double for your teachers at school, who always chastised you for daydreaming in class.

The truth is that a lot of people daydream, meaning their minds wander and contemplate all sorts of things. 

Is this a good or a bad thing?

Your teacher will say it’s bad because you’re not paying attention to what’s happening around you. You’ll miss out on information and do worse on exams and other tasks.

On the other hand, mind wandering has been linked to increased creativity and creative problem-solving, as well as improved planning for the future.

Current research shows that this mind-wandering is linked to higher intelligence.

Not only that, but the research suggests that this is not something that you can easily control. Instead, it’s the result of functional connections between different brain regions.

In other words, your brain is hyper-connected, and that can make it go off in many directions.

6) You might worry. Or you might not.

The old saying goes that ignorance is bliss.

Mental health issues have been shown to be linked to intelligence, though in a very convoluted way.

One study found strong links between high childhood IQ, particularly verbal IQ, and the risk of developing bipolar disorder later in life.

While this isn’t good news, the finding may actually help with earlier detection and treatment of bipolar.

There’s also good evidence that people who are more intelligent worry more than their less-intelligent brethren. However, this is only true for people who have anxiety disorders.

The same study found that people without anxiety actually showed a negative correlation, worrying less the higher their IQs are.

Because the concept of intelligence is so complex, it seems to have connections to different parts of the brain and different psychological disorders as well.

7) You like dark humor.

This sign you’re smarter than you think is quite an odd one.

Why would liking dark humor have anything to do with intelligence?

Well, it could be that to appreciate the subtleties involved in comprehending dark jokes, you have to have a certain level of intelligence. If you don’t get it, how would you enjoy it?

Another idea is that black humor – meaning jokes about dead babies or racism – is designed to be satirical. It’s often clever in its construction and plays a role in making fun, not of the subject itself, but of anyone who might actually support that subject.

This connection is hard for many people to understand, especially people of moderate intelligence who seem to miss the satirical elements and, therefore, find dark humor highly offensive.

In fact, research into dark humor appreciation found that people with lower intelligence enjoy dark humor somewhat and don’t seem to be bothered by it.

People of moderate intelligence don’t enjoy dark humor very much and actually find it very disturbing. Mood disturbances like depression and aggressiveness also make people enjoy dark humor less.

But people with low aggressiveness, no mood disturbances, and high verbal and nonverbal intelligence enjoy dark humor more than anyone.

8) You’re a night owl.

Do you like to stay up late?

Chances are that you’re a night owl because you’re highly intelligent.

Research into preferences for nocturnal activities shows that people with high intelligence go to sleep almost an hour later than people with very low intelligence.

This could be related to evolution in that nocturnal activities were quite unusual for our ancestors, and so only highly creative, curious, and intelligent people tended to perform them.

Do you recognize these eight signs you’re smarter than you realize, according to psychology?

If you do, you should feel clever.

Chances are, it means you’re one smart cookie!

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