10 Signs of High Intelligence (Are You One Odd Genius?)

Do you ever wonder if you or someone you know is an outlier in terms of intelligence? If so, learn how to spot signs of high intelligence without having them take an IQ test.

What’s intelligence? It is our mental capacity 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 learn from experience and to adapt to, shape, and select environments.” — Robert Sternberg, 2012

Some people often seem aloof, forgetful, and always lost in thoughts. Are they intellectual mavericks, do they have personality issues, or are they neurodivergent?

Spotting the signs of high intelligence in a person can help you understand why they think and behave the way they do, which is vital if you are planning a relationship with them.

If you feel lonely in your relationship and suspect that your partner’s high IQ is to blame, keep reading.

Signs of High Intelligence
Blue-eyed people, according to a study, are more studious, more strategic, more focused, and thus outperform brown-eyed people in exams.

10 Signs of High Intelligence

You don’t always need to put a person through an IQ test to know if they are intelligent. You can find it in certain telltale traits.

Like, a highly intelligent person has a certain way of dealing with failures and successes in life (we explore it below).

To begin with, larger brain sizes do not make men smarter than women.

Fact: Men have larger brains than women, of course, but women have superior connections between the two brain halves via the corpus callosum.

In any case, brain size has only a small impact on intelligence. So, there are no apparent advantages in IQ between men and women based on brain size (Halpern, 2011).

Now, let’s dive into the 10 traits or signs of high intelligence:

1. High-IQ people have excellent memory and recall capacity, but tend to forget little things.

It is known that people with high intelligence are often forgetful of simple things, like birthdays, names, or where they have kept their car keys.

These “necessary” memory lapses are actually signs of high intelligence.

Canadian researchers Frankland and Richards suggest that the brain erases trivial and irrelevant details so that it can focus on crucial things and make intelligent decisions.

They say the main goal of our memory is not to transmit information through time, but to optimize decision-making.

“It is the interaction between persistence (remembering) and transience (forgetting) that allows for intelligent decision-making in dynamic, noisy environments.” — Blake Richards & Paul Frankland, 2017

High-IQ people have an unusual ability to remember faces, facts, and figures. It is mostly because of a system of memory, called “mnemonic persistence,” that lets them easily retrieve stored memories.

High-IQ people have an almost perfect “mnemonic” system of memory.

It allows them to remember events from both remote past and recent times in exquisite detail.

More crucially, it also lets them forget the unhelpful memories.

In comparison, those with brain strokes or dementia mostly retain their remote-past memories, but cannot recall much of anything else. They especially forget things that happened recently (working memory).

Our ability to remember facts, trivia, and experiences from years ago is called declarative memory. A higher ability at declarative function can point out that a person is more intelligent than the average.

This makes them faster and better learners.

Their exceptional ability to learn new things quickly allows them to have steep learning curves.

This means they can easily retain and recall the exact steps of a process, pick up new skills easily, and apply them efficiently to a variety of situations.

In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important as remembering.

—William James (The Principles of Psychology)

2. Highly intelligent people have good pattern recognition and reasoning abilities.

Humans are masters of pattern recognition. It gives us a clear edge in the fight for survival.

Finding consistent patterns helps us navigate life’s challenges. If we cannot read patterns and spot irregularities, we can miss threats that are still at a distance.

When we spot a pattern, we can forecast what will happen next, so we no longer have to react to events but can instead plan and prepare for success before the event occurs.

Video by HIP.

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 signs of highly intelligent people is their superior 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.

Of course, in our present world, much pattern recognition work has gone to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) mechanisms.

Did you know our immune systems are heavily dependent on pattern recognition?

When a microbe infects us, our bodies must be alerted to the presence of these harmful disease agents. Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) in our immune systems recognize molecular structures in bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, and start our natural immune response.

3. One sign of intelligence is precise and credible decision-making.

You can never have every relevant piece of information before you make a decision, so you must rely on your intuition.

Highly intelligent people have better intuitions and can predict results better, which makes them superior at decision-making.

Decision-making needs deductive abilities as well as predictive processes.

  • Deductive ability means skills mostly gleaned from experiences and need us to read a situation quickly and decide what will most likely work.
  • Predictive abilities mean skills that we gain from intuition (“gut feeling”)to remember incidences when a similar situation led by other people yielded certain results.

The more intelligent people 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.

“If, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt.”

— Jose Saramago

4. One of the signs of genius is high levels of creativity.

Geniuses are creative people. Moreover, their creativity is spread across diverse, often unrelated fields.

  • Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize-winning physicist who worked on quantum mechanics and superfluidity, regularly played bongo drums.
  • Stephen Hawking wrote children’s books.
  • Einstein enjoyed sailing.

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 a long period, filter out unnecessary details, and daydream and mind-wander.

“The greatest scientists are artists as well.”

— Albert Einstein

However, keep this in mind. Although creative people are inherently intelligent, 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.

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.

Bill Gates Remembers Richard Feynman - Bill Gates - 5/11/2018

5. Intelligent people are highly imaginative and like problem-solving.

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.”

— Gloria Steinem

High-IQ people 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.

People with higher IQs may have learned how to better utilize their brains. Haier and colleagues, 1993, discovered that people with high IQs have less glucose metabolism in most areas of their brains, but more glucose metabolism in specific areas of their brains (which are probably the areas processing the task at hand).

6. High intelligence correlates to high levels of insight and intuition.

People who are more intelligent are more insightful and more intuitive.

They are more aware of their own mental states and can accurately understand the thoughts and feelings they are having.

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle…,” says Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

Intuition is mostly an unconscious faculty.

Intuition is a lightning-fast hidden brain activity that involves “learned responses that are not the outcomes of deliberate processes” (Hogarth, 2010).

To reach sensible and useful conclusions, we need four things: information, analysis, logic, and intuition.

Now, artificial intelligence (AI) works with the first three, but lacks the fourth one — intuition. This is where humans shine.

Intelligent humans have better-honed intuitions that help them reach smart and productive conclusions (or at least those that are not “dumb”) most of the time.

The only real valuable thing is intuition. I believe in intuitions and inspirations… I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am.

— Albert Einstein

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.

So, we may guess that high-intelligence people are good at unconsciously processing environmental signals. This is because they remember learnings from experiences of self and others.

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When their insight and intuition fail, intelligent people accept the results with a desire to learn.

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. High-IQ people are curious and open to new experiences.

One of the signs of high intelligence is the presence of high curiosity and willingness to learn new things.

High-IQ people typically ask questions about things they see or hear. When they don’t understand what you’re saying, they ask you to explain it to them in simple words.

These people are curious learners, which makes them more intelligent.

Of the Big 5 personality traits, namely OCEAN (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism), high-IQ people score high on Openness.

The most difficult part of becoming intelligent is not bragging about your knowledge; it is being modest enough to ask questions. If you stay curious, others will see you as intelligent.

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.

8. Intelligence people often have 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.

9. High intelligence often comes with 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.

Researchers discovered that persons with higher IQs were more prone to try illegal drugs.

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.

Moreover, 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. High-intelligence people are quite often 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 imposter syndrome and how can you combat it? - Elizabeth Cox

Who are the high-IQ people?

High-intelligence people score over 130 on IQ tests. 95 percent of people have IQs ranging between 70 and 130, with exceptionally intelligent people scoring higher than 130. Those who score more than 145 come in the top 1%.

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.

How many types of intelligence are there?

Traditionally, it was thought that there is a single type of intelligence – general intelligence (“g”), which focuses on cognitive abilities (Spearman, 1904).

1. Sternberg’s Theory of Intelligence

Sternberg (1927) suggested that people are intelligent in their lives to the extent that they:

  • create and achieve goals that help them attain what they seek in life;
  • capitalize on their strengths while compensating for or correcting their weaknesses;
  • adapt to, shape, and select environments; and
  • use a combination of essential skills like creative, analytical, and practical abilities.

2. Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory of Intelligence

Cattell, Horn, and Carroll theory (CHC, 1993) integrated the concepts of fluid intelligence (the ability to cope with novelty, and think quickly and flexibly), and crystallized intelligence (a store of knowledge relating to adaptation in one’s life, including vocabulary).

3. Gardner’s Theory of Intelligence

Howard Gardner, a professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University, proposed the theory of multiple intelligences (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

4. Psychological Theory of Intelligence

Psychologists classify intelligence into 4 types:

  1. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – the measure of your level of comprehension and problem-solving.
  2. Emotional Quotient (EQ) – the measure of your ability to keep peace with others, be trustable and honest, respect boundaries, and be authentic and considerate.
  3. Social Quotient (SQ) – the measure of your ability to build and maintain a network of friends.
  4. Adversity Quotient (AQ) – the measure of your ability to go through a rough patch in life, and come out stronger and better (resilience).

Five Signs of A Highly Intelligent Person

There are some signs of high intelligence that you can easily identify in others to tell if they have extreme intelligence characteristics or at least an above-average IQ:

  1. They love to challenge themselves with intricate, unsolved problems.
  2. They are typically curious people who love to explore novel experiences.
  3. Their intuitive abilities and capacity to spot patterns are far superior to others.
  4. They are highly innovative and creative thinkers who have a bent for lateral thinking.
  5. They make better decisions, get superior results, and are frequently high achievers.


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

Final Words

One fascinating 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%.

Genes determine roughly around 45-75% of our general intelligence, 60% of our verbal intelligence, and 20% of our performance intelligence (Davies, Tenesa, et al., 2011). The more intriguing fact is that there are at least a thousand of these “intelligence genes.”

Finally, we can increase our intelligence by traveling to unexplored places, learning a new language, and expanding our knowledge. Let’s repeat what we quoted at the start:

Intelligence involves abilities to learn and adapt to changing environment.

— Robert J. Sternberg, Intelligence

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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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