10 signs you’re way more intelligent than you realize, according to psychology

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Our understanding of intelligence has really expanded in recent years.

Where once upon a time we thought of it as how well you could solve a math problem or whether you got really good grades in school, times have moved on.

Experts now appreciate it’s a way more complicated picture than that. But a lot of us still don’t see ourselves as clever because of this outdated idea of what intelligence is.

The chances are, you excel in ways you never gave much thought to.

So let’s take a look at 10 signs you’re way more intelligent than you realize, according to psychology.

1) You don’t think you’re really intelligent

Some of the smartest people I know don’t think of themselves as particularly clever. And it turns out this is no coincidence.

Being arrogant about your intellect doesn’t just make you a bit of a dick, it actually points to the fact that you’re not as smart as you like to think you are.

Scientific studies have noted that people who really rate themselves lack the goods to back it up.

Known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, it’s a cognitive bias in which people with limited competence in a particular domain overestimate their abilities.

Yet the more humble amongst us who aren’t so confident often perform better than we expect.


Research showed that people who overestimate their ability are simply unaware of their lack of knowledge or expertise.

So the very fact you know your limitations and doubt yourself is a testament to your intellect.

2) You’re good at going with the flow and rolling with the punches

Aka, you can adapt yourself well to whatever life hands you.

Stephen Hawking has been quoted as claiming that on a fundamental level, “intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

It seems this isn’t just an anecdotal observation either. Research has confirmed that our intelligence is underpinned by our ability to change our behavior.

It’s this that allows us to progress and adjust to our environment.

Without it we’d stay stuck and would crumble at the first sign of challenges. 

3) You’re a people person

I touched upon it in the intro, but I think it’s really important to stress again:

Intelligence is incredibly nuanced.

Whilst we like to pigeonhole it as having a high IQ, that’s just one very small aspect.

The truth is, that we can be smart in a variety of useful ways

Emotional intelligence and social intelligence are equally valid in a world where it pays to get along with others.

If you’re good at understanding yourself and those around you, can navigate a wide range of social situations, and are generally well-liked, it’s a sign you have these forms of intelligence.

And guess what?

Having a high EQ has been shown as a greater predictor of success than having a high IQ or technical skills.

In his book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ’ renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman argued: “In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels”.

Both the thinking mind and the feeling mind have their own unique intelligence. Qualities like empathy, self-awareness, and compassion are all a testament to it.

4) You’re a bit nosey

…Or to put it another way, you’re curious.

Are you constantly asking questions?

Do you find the details of other people’s life fascinating?

Are you always digging for more information to deepen your understanding?

Being intrigued by life around you shows your brain is engaged.

Ok, that’s not an excuse to pry, and without a filter, it can damage relationships.

But even the nosiest of people are often driven by intrigue, and that is a sign of intellect.

For example, one study highlighted the link between intelligence and this desire to gain new knowledge.

When channeled in the right way, it can be a marvelous attribute. As famous physicist Albert Einstein once remarked:

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

5) Your memory and recall are on point

We already know how important a strong memory is to our brain health.

But a good memory in itself is also a sign of intellect and shows your brain is functioning well.

Studies have found that good recall is a sign of so-called fluid intelligence.

That’s essentially how well we take in the variety of complex information in our environment.

So that’s not just your recollection of things that have happened, it’s also linked to things like good observation skills and picking up on patterns.

6) You’re prepared to push your comfort zone and take risks 

If you are willing to take on challenges this is a hidden sign of intelligence.

Research discovered that risk takers have more white brain matter.

It’s this part of the brain that’s associated with our cognitive function and our ability to do a wide range of things like learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision-making, etc.

As researcher and behavioral analyst Dagfinn Moe explains, in order to take a chance and it pay off, you need to be smart:

“The point here is that if you’re going to take risks, you have to have the required skills. And these have to be learned. Sadly, many fail during this learning process — with tragic consequences. So this is why we’re wording our findings with a Darwinian slant — it takes brains to take risks.”

Whilst reckless people may not be quite so clever, risk-takers on the other hand succeed as they have honed their intellect.

7) You’re not stuck in your ways and can keep an open mind

When you give it some thought, it makes a lot of sense.

The mind expands the more it is willing to take on board.

Closed-minded people shut the door on possibility. Meanwhile open-minded folk are willing to entertain more variety.

And research has proven that to be a really important factor in our capacity to learn.

For example, one study showed that openness predicts someone’s ability to retain and store information.

To give even more weight to the theory, it’s been noted that more conservative people in society generally have a lower IQ than people who consider themselves liberal.

8) You manage to concentrate

My concentration skills leave a lot to be desired.

As an introvert, I can find environmental distractions quickly stand in my way and steal my focus.

But it seems the ability to keep your mind on the task at hand is yet another secret sign of your brain power.

Research has discovered that highly intelligent people are good at filtering out all that background noise in the form of irrelevant information or unhelpful distractions.

If you have no problem applying yourself to get the job done, it’s a real skill that you shouldn’t take for granted.

9) You’re more of a doer than a thinker

My brother-in-law always puts himself down. He’s dyslexic and struggled at school, feeling like he was left behind.

Yet he is one of the most practically capable people I’ve ever met. He is really good with his hands and makes tools for a living.

He’s also a real whizz in the kitchen and does most of the family’s cooking.

He effortlessly fitted their new bathroom single-handedly, despite having no specific training in that line of work.

Unbeknown to him, this absolutely is a form of intelligence.

According to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, those gifted with so-called bodily-kinesthetic intelligence often excel in things that demand a good “sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union.”

That includes a variety of craftspeople, athletes, dancers, surgeons, etc. 

Intelligence doesn’t mean always having your head buried in a book.

10) You’re a total LOL

At school, you probably didn’t score any points with your teachers for being the class clown.

But maybe you should have because funny people are generally smart people.

Having a good sense of humor is a very valued trait in society. You might assume that’s down to the fact that we all love some light relief.

Whilst it’s true witty people are fun to be around, that’s not all that’s going on.

It’s also a strong indication that someone is smarter than the average person, with studies confirming that a sharp sense of humor is a reflection of intellect. 

Being able to crack a joke is not just a sign of cognitive abilities, it’s also a sign of verbal intelligence.

Are you smarter than you gave yourself credit for?

Hopefully, this article has shed light on some of the signs of intelligence you possess that you never even considered befor.

I guess the moral of the story is that we shouldn’t underestimate our own abilities.

When we embrace the variety and diversity of intelligence we can continue to challenge ourselves, to grow and learn.

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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