Do you ever wonder if you or someone you know is an odd genius? If so, learn how to spot signs of high intelligence without having them take an IQ test.
The term “intelligence” describes a person’s mental capacity, or the ability to think, reason, understand, learn, and problem-solve. It is also used to describe a machine’s ability to analyze and solve problems, such as AI (artificial intelligence).
Intelligence is “the ability to adapt effectively to the environment.” — Encyclopedia Britannica, 2006
Finding out if a person has heightened intelligence can help you understand why they think and act the way they do, which is vital if you are in a relationship with them.
If you feel lonely in your relationship and want to know if your partner’s IQ is to blame, keep reading.
The High IQ People
The average human brain contains about 100 billion neurons, densely connected to each other. This makes for an incredibly complex system that allows us to think, feel, and act.
Some people can do amazingly intricate things with their minds, which is most likely due to increased complexity in their brain neural connections (Human intelligence and brain networks, Colom, et al. 2022). But there’s no way to measure this directly. So, we use IQ tests.
“What’s your score?”
When people think of intelligence, they first tend to think of IQ and IQ scores. The first IQ test was the Binet-Simon Scale of Intelligence, developed in 1905. It popularized the clinical terms “moron” (IQ from 50-69), “imbecile” (20-49), and “idiot” (less than 20).
In 1916, Lewis Terman modified it to devise the Stanford-Binet test that is still used today (you can take it here). In 1939, David Wechsler devised the Adult Intelligence Scale.
Most IQ tests around 30 minutes.
On average, 95 percent of people have IQs between 70 and 130, with highly intelligent ones scoring more than 130. Those who score more than 145 are in the top 1%.
However, we don’t always need to put one through an IQ test to know if they are intelligent. A highly intelligent person, for example, has a certain way of dealing with failures and successes in life. Read on.
Types of Intelligence
Traditionally, it was thought that there is a single type of intelligence – general intelligence (“g”), which focuses on cognitive abilities.
Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. He said there are 8 different intelligences – verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal-intrapersonal, naturalist, and existential.
Intelligence is “the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings.” —Howard Gardner, 1983
Psychologists classify intelligence into 4 types:
- Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – the measure of your level of comprehension and problem-solving.
- Emotional Quotient (EQ) – the measure of your ability to keep peace with others, be trustable and honest, respect boundaries, and be authentic and considerate.
- Social Quotient (SQ) – the measure of your ability to build and maintain a network of friends.
- Adversity Quotient (AQ) – the measure of your ability to go through a rough patch in life, and come out stronger and better (resilience).
10 Signs of High Intelligence
If you notice some of these traits in others or yourself, you can safely tell it is a sign of an above-average IQ. Here below are the signs of high intelligence:
1. Better memory and recall capacity.
People with high intelligence tend to have better memory skills than others. They remember past as well as recent things better than others.
In comparison, those with strokes or dementia can mostly retain their past memories. But they cannot recall anything else, especially things that happened recently (working memory).
Our ability to remember experiences, facts, and trivia that we learned years ago is called declarative memory. A better ability at his can indicate that a person has high intelligence.
High IQ people have an unusual ability to remember names, faces, facts, and figures.
They also have an excellent ability to learn new things quickly (have steep learning curves). This means they pick up new skills easily and apply them efficiently to different situations.
Intelligent people are better at remembering things because they have an efficient way to store and retrieve their memories.
2. Good pattern recognition and reasoning ability.
Finding congruent patterns is a helpful way to navigate threats to survival. If we cannot identify patterns and notice the irregularities, it could mean we are unable to see threats from a distance.
Like noticing a sudden silence in the environment. Or, taking note of a “friend” explaining the benefits of visiting a certain place with them. Or, finding that, of late, a child is behaving with high emotionality.
One of the traits of intelligent people is their better ability to recognize patterns.
The ability to recognize patterns (also known as concept formation) is specifically and directly measured on the Wechsler Intelligence tests.
Interestingly, after about the age of 25, this ability begins to decline fast while language skills and memory rise in relative importance as indicators of intelligence.
3. Credible decision-making.
High intelligence people have better intuitions. It helps them make decisions that are smart and productive, or at least not “dumb” or useless, most of the time.
Decision-making needs deductive abilities which are mostly gleaned from experiences, as well as predictive processes, which we gain from intuition (“gut feeling”).
Deductive ability means skills to read a situation quickly and decide what will most like work. Predictive abilities mean skills to remember incidences when a similar situation led by other people yielded certain results.
The more intelligent persons are better at both deductive and predictive abilities. They can quickly analyze the given data and reliably forecast realistic results, leading some to label them as gurus of self-fulfilling prophecies.
4. High levels of creativity.
Creative people are inherently intelligent, yet not all intelligent people are creative.
So, when we observe creative people, we can deduce they are intelligent. But we can’t really tell whether a person is intelligent or not if we never see them practice any art or other creative activities.
“The greatest scientists are artists as well.” — Albert Einstein
Creativity is the ability to create something unique, original, or innovative. It requires basic intelligence.
Creativity cannot occur without an ability to problem-solve, brainstorm, incubate ideas for long, filter out unnecessary details, and daydream and mind-wander.
Practicing art is not the same as being creative, but doing any art form can often help us become more creative. Most creative people have ways to shut down their conscious minds to let ideas flow more naturally.
Richard Feynman, an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in quantum mechanics and superfluidity, played bongo drums. Einstein enjoyed sailing. Stephen Hawking wrote children’s books.
5. Keen interest in problem-solving.
High IQ people typically ask questions about things they see or hear about. They also enjoy learning new things and solving puzzles.
They are naturally drawn toward adapting to new situations and trying to find solutions to new challenges.
More importantly, intelligent people don’t begin by knowing the answer—they value the process of finding the answer.
They also tend to be genuinely interested in science and technology. Moreover, they frequently veer out of their usual domain of work to capture novel questions and find their answers. This is supported by their ability to process abstract thinking effectively.
People with heightened intelligence are also known to improvise a lot.
When a problem cannot be solved, they can easily step back and come back at it with new ideas. Researchers found that improvising brains could turn off their error checkers and let the ideas bubble to the surface.
6. High levels of insight and intuition.
People who are more intelligent are more likely to be aware of their own mental states. They can accurately understand the thoughts and feelings they are having.
Highly intelligent people are also great at intuitive powers. They can often have a way to find the right and best solutions quickly without being able to explain how they achieved that.
Intuition is mostly an unconscious faculty. So, we may guess that they are good at unconsciously processing environmental signals. This is because they remember learnings from experiences of self and others.
When their insight and intuition fail, intelligent people accept the results with a desire to learn.
A study shows that highly intelligent people learn just as much from their mistakes as they do from their successes. Those with lower intelligence, in comparison, learn mostly from their successes.
7. Difficulty holding on to romantic partners.
A 2007 study of students and graduates from leading colleges, including MIT, found that the rate of virginity in the higher-intelligence group was noticeably high, at around 45 percent.
People generally want to pair up with honest people, who can make them laugh, and are intelligent.
However, people do not want highly intelligent people as their partners, especially those who are in the top 10%. The two main reasons are that these people have inadequate social skills, and they are usually incompatible.
On their part, highly intelligent people often have to “dumb down” themselves to be able to talk to potential partners. Over time, this gets too exhausting for them to continue.
Research has shown that socializing with friends correlates with increased life satisfaction. But in high-intelligence people, socializing had the reverse effect. More frequent social interactions resulted in poorer life satisfaction in them.
The most brilliant among us are often the happiest when alone—and perhaps should be left alone.
8. Curious and open to experiences.
One of the signs of high intelligence is the presence of high curiosity and willingness to learn new things.
Of the Big 5 personality traits, namely OCEAN (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism), the high-IQ people score high on Openness.
The smarter people are naturally inclined to seek experimental and novel experiences. This has a negative fallout too.
When researchers questioned over 8,000 people, they discovered that those with higher IQs were more likely to experiment with illegal drugs.
However, before you rush to Google more on this, know that this study found that search engines lead us to overestimate our own intelligence. So, Googling may make you feel smarter than you actually are.
9. Have certain psychological issues.
Smart people are outliers and often eccentric people.
Steve Jobs wore the same color, same design turtlenecks almost his entire life. Einstein’s desk was a mess all the time. Some of the most unkempt and “strange” humans among us are actually geniuses.
Research shows that Mensa members have a higher risk of developing mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and bipolar. They also have a higher tendency to have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
The reason could be that high-intelligence people think more and for longer periods of time. They also tend to overthink and worry, be hypervigilant to stressful cues in their environment, overanalyze things, and have high physiological excitability.
“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” — Ernest Hemingway
A study by the London School of Economics found that highly intelligent people are prone to insomnia. The researchers also discovered that as the average IQ level rises, so does the rate of sleep achieved in hours per night (Why night owls are more intelligent, Kanazawa & Perina, 2009).
It is also observed that high intelligence people have high impulsivity. They find it hard to avoid instant gratification, and often prefer immediate rewards while devaluing future rewards.
Also, they often do not plan too meticulously before an activity. The reason being they rely on their intelligence to carry them through without exceptional preparation, and to find creative, parallel solutions.
10. Are high achievers.
First, it would be too wrong to say that all intelligent people are high achievers.
However, almost all exceptional achievers have an intelligence higher than the average population. Success often comes from luck (randomness), timing, smart decisions, opportunities, and intelligence.
As they say, successful people aren’t just lucky, they are successful because they were lucky, and, we may add, intelligent.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers picks up how The Beatles and Bill Gates both were exceptionally lucky to have landed opportunities to get where they got.
Some notable Mensa members from Hollywood are Britt Rentschler, Nicole Kidman, Jodie Foster, Geena Davis, Dolph Lundgren, Edward Norton, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis, and James Woods (who is claimed to have an IQ of 180).
The negative aspect of this sign is that they frequently experience “imposter syndrome,” or thoughts of doubt about their ability and deservingness of recognition.
It happens because, possibly, brilliant people always challenge themselves, so they frequently face new and hard situations that they solve and grow out of, which may make them feel like an imposter.
What is intelligence?
Intelligence is difficult to define. However, most researchers agree that intelligence includes two main components: fluid intelligence, which is the ability to reason and solve new problems; and crystallized intelligence, which is knowledge acquired from experience.
These two components can be independent of each other. Some people may have high fluid intelligence but low crystallized intelligence.
The same experience can increase crystallized intelligence but may not necessarily improve fluid intelligence. You can’t use abstract reasoning to predict an event precisely.
For example, a street dog biting your leg may teach you to avoid that dog’s territory, but it may not teach you whether to bolt or pick up a stick the next time you have to pass them.
Do IQ and intelligence decrease over a lifetime?
IQ generally decreases over a lifetime. To be specific, average raw IQ scores decrease with age, even though the average IQ at older ages stays at 100.
While fluid intelligence starts to deteriorate around the age of 30 to 40, crystallized intelligence keeps growing over a lifetime. In fact, crystallized intelligence tends to peak around the age of 60 or 70 (Desjardins & Warnke, 2012).
So, people tend to have a steady capacity to learn from experiences throughout their lives, but lose the ability to think and reason abstractly and solve problems.
IQ scores are universal benchmarks of intelligence, but they measure more than just intelligence. An IQ test also indicates how motivated you are to take the test. Therefore, a smart guy who is unmotivated because of his age can score dismally low on an IQ test and still be a genius!
What is Mensa?
Mensa is the world’s oldest and largest high-IQ society, founded in England in 1946, with a strong presence in the United States. To be a Mensa member, you require an IQ score in the 98th percentile or higher. This translates as a WAIS score of 130 or higher, or a Stanford-Binet score of at least 132.
There are around 145,000 Mensans worldwide. Most Mensa members are between the ages of 20 and 60, have a good sense of humor, are very curious, and grasp concepts quickly.
“Anyone with an IQ in the top 2% of the population can join Mensa.” — Mensa.org
Our genes determine roughly around 45-75% of our general intelligence, 60% of our verbal intelligence, and 20% of performance intelligence. The more intriguing fact is that there are at least a thousand of these “intelligence genes.”
Another interesting fact is that your parents are not much responsible for your intelligence. The link between a parent’s IQ and a child’s IQ is just about 10%.
We can increase our intelligence by working on our memory skills, learning a new language, and expanding our knowledge.
Are you lately feeling like you have lots of plans but cannot get yourself to work on those? Then take a look at these 6 alarming signs of Mental Fatigue (that you can’t ignore).
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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