10 Signs Of High Intelligence (Are You An Outlier Genius?)

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

How can you tell if you, or someone you know, has high intelligence without taking an IQ test?

Some people often seem aloof, forgetful, and lost in their thoughts. Are they intellectual outliers, or are they neurodivergent (like having ADHD)?

Knowing the signs of a high IQ can help you understand why intelligent people think and act the way they do. If you are in a relationship with them, this is vital.

For example, if you feel lonely in a relationship and believe that your partner’s high IQ is the reason, read on to find out if it’s actually so.

10 Signs of High Intelligence or High IQ

Allow me to clarify it at the outset:

Bigger brain size does not make men smarter than women.

Men have larger brains than women, and brain size is positively linked with intelligence. So, we may expect that men would have higher intelligence than women.

However, there is a negligible sex difference in “g” or general intelligence (Colom & Juan-Espinosa, 2000). Research also suggests IQ scores of men and women do not have major differences (Halpern, 2001).

While men have superiority in spatial abilities, women have superior social connection abilities.

These are the 10 signs of high intelligence in a person:

1. Intelligent people have difficulty having romantic relationships.

“Higher intelligence was also associated with the postponement of the initiation of the full range of partnered sexual activities.”

Halpern, Joyner, & Udry, 2000

Halpern’s team looked at 1000s of teens in grades 7-12 to find that:

  • Students with IQs above 100 and below 70 were significantly less likely to have had intercourse than those in between.
  • Those with IQs ranging from 75 to 90 had the lowest probability of virginity (this is also the same IQ range where inclination towards crime peaks).
  • Each additional point of IQ increased the odds of virginity by 2.7% for males and 1.7% for females.

This article points to a 2001 campus sex survey by the college magazine ‘Counterpoint’ which found that while 87% of college students had lost their virginity by the age of 19, it was much lower at elite (i.e., more intelligent) colleges.

  • At Harvard, 59% of the surveyed undergraduates were non-virgins.
  • Only 56% of Princeton undergraduates have had intercourse.
  • At MIT, only 51%, have had sexual intercourse.
  • Only 65% of MIT graduates were non-virgins.

So, college teens do not want highly intelligent people as their partners, especially those who are in the top 10% in intelligence testing.

The two main reasons seem to be that:

  1. These people tend to have poor social skills.
  2. They are usually incompatible.

Research has shown that friendship, both in terms of intensity and quality, is positively linked to life satisfaction. But in high-intelligence people, socializing has the reverse effect.

More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends (Ali & Ambler, 2013).

To be fair, highly intelligent people often have to “dumb down” to be able to talk to potential partners. Over time, this gets too exhausting for them to continue.

The most brilliant among us are often the happiest when alone—and perhaps should be left alone.

6 Reasons Highly Intelligent People Struggle Finding Love

2. Intelligent people have good pattern recognition and reasoning abilities.

One of the signs of highly intelligent people is their superior ability to recognize patterns. This gives them an edge in the fight for survival.

Finding consistent patterns can help deal with life’s challenges better. Spotting a pattern helps you better predict what might happen next. This lets you plan and prepare for events rather than react to them.

Those who can’t spot irregular patterns can miss threats, such as a snake in the bushes.

  • A sudden silence in the environment (is a tiger nearby?).
  • A child is having high emotionality of late (are they being abused?).
  • A friend is insisting that we visit a certain place alone with them (do they want to harm us?).

The ability to recognize patterns (also known as concept formation) is measured by Wechsler Intelligence tests.

Interestingly, this ability begins to drop fast after the age of 25, when language and memory skills become more important signs of intelligence.

“Intelligence is the ability to learn from experience and to adapt to, shape, and select environments.” — Robert Sternberg, 2012

In our current world, most 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 harmful microbe infects us, our bodies start an immune response. This happens because our immune systems have pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that recognize the irregular molecular structures in these bacteria and viruses, and attack them.

What is Intelligence? || The Human Potential Lab
Scott Barry Kaufman on Intelligence

3. Intelligent people can make more precise and credible decisions.

You can’t have all the information you need before you make a decision. So you must rely partly on your intuition.

Highly intelligent people have better intuitions and can predict results better, which makes them superior at decision-making (Thompson & Pennycook, 2018).

Decision-making needs the ability to deduct as well as to predict.

  • Deductive ability means skills we learn from our experiences that allow us to read a situation quickly and decide what will work best.
  • Predictive ability means skills we learn from our intuitions (“gut feelings”) to help us remember events 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

Did you know about these 12+ Decision-Making Biases That Can Ruin Your Success?

4. A predictable sign of genius is a high level 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 also know ways to shut down their conscious minds to let ideas flow more naturally.

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

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

One of the signs of extreme intelligence is a highly imaginative mind that seeks problems to solve.

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 novel challenges.

  • Robert Emmons, the best-known gratitude researcher today, loves to solve giant jigsaw puzzles.
  • Todd Kashdan, the insubordination researcher, loves to find out the intricacies of body-building.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the father of the concept of flow, loved to surf oceans.

Surprisingly, intelligent people do not begin by knowing the answer—they value the process of finding the answer.

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

— Gloria Steinem

They tend to be genuinely interested in science and technology.

However, they frequently stray from their usual field of study to capture new questions and find their answers. This is helped by their ability to effectively process abstract thinking.

The Common Character Trait of Geniuses | James Gleick | Big Think

People with high intelligence also love to improvise a lot.

When a problem cannot be solved, they can step back and come back later with new ideas. Their brains can turn off their error checkers and let even “nonsensical” ideas bubble to the surface.

  • Psychologists think humans have multiple intelligences.
  • The standard intelligence test is the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale.
  • Intelligence is the human capacity to think, reason, learn, understand, and solve problems.

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 is linked 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.

Humans tend to think in two ways: quickly and intuitively (System 1), or slowly and deliberately (System 2).

  • This study suggests that people who are good at thinking (high-capacity reasoners) can use their intuition, logic, and probability to reason, even when their beliefs conflict with the logic.
  • However, those who are not as good at thinking (low-capacity reasoners) tend to rely on their beliefs, even when the logic is clear.

Intuition is mostly an unconscious faculty with varying intensity. As Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, says, “Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle.”

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

Four things are needed to draw sensible and useful conclusions:

  1. Logic,
  2. Analysis,
  3. Information,
  4. Intuition.

Now, artificial intelligence (AI) works with the first three but lacks the fourth one — intuition.

And 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 great at intuitive powers. They can often find the right and best solutions quickly without being able to explain how they achieved them.

So, we may guess that one of the signs of high intelligence is being 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. 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. High-IQ people have excellent memory and recall capacity but tend to forget little things.

Some people often forget simple things like birthdays, names, or where they put their car keys.

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

Research suggests that these people’s brains erase little, irrelevant details to focus on more crucial things and make intelligent decisions.

The researchers 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 almost perfect “mnemonic” system of memory.

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.

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

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

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

—William James (The Principles of Psychology)

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 a person’s high intelligence.

They have steep learning curves and are faster and better learners.

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

9. High intelligence often comes with certain psychological issues.

Smart people are often outliers and eccentric. Some of the most unkempt and “strange” humans among us are actually geniuses.

the day einstein died 01 - 10 Signs Of High Intelligence (Are You An Outlier Genius?) - 1
Einstein’s desk photographed a day after his death, 1955
  • Einstein’s desk was a mess all the time.
  • Steve Jobs wore the same color and same design turtlenecks almost his entire life.

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

Research by Karpinski & Kolb (2017) suggests 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.

They are 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).

Research has observed that some high-intelligence people have high impulsivity (Phillips and Rabbitt, 1995).

Other researchers found that people with high impulsivity and high academic ability tend to have lower grades than those with high academic ability and low impulsivity (Helmers, Young, & Pihl, 1995; Zeidner, 1995).

Impulsive people, by definition, have a lack of planning and make hasty decisions. They find it hard to avoid instant gratification. And often prefer immediate rewards while devaluing future rewards.

One of the high intelligence signs is a tendency to not spend too much time planning meticulously before an activity.

This could be because they rely on their intelligence to find creative, parallel solutions without extensive preparation.

IQ tests should never be used to forecast someone’s life potential. 50% of people overperform on academic achievement tests based on their predicted performance on IQ tests.

— Scott Barry Kaufman

10. High-intelligence people are quite often high achievers.

Is success one of the signs you have a high IQ?

First, it would be 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.

How is artificial intelligence (AI) different from human intelligence?

Some ways that artificial intelligence (AI) differs from human intelligence:

FeatureArtificial Intelligence (AI)Human Intelligence
Based onHuman insights that can be programmedA natural ability that humans are born with.
Can learn fromPast data and experiencePast experiences and the environment
Can process and interpret informationFrom the world around themFrom the world around them
Can solve problemsWithout any rest or breaksWith rest and breaks
Can be customizedTo perform specific tasksNot easily customizable
Can provide ethical and moral considerationsNoYes
Limited byPhysical and mental capabilitiesPhysical and mental capabilities
Can adapt to new environmentsUsing a mixture of cognitive proceduresUsing a mixture of cognitive procedures
Table: AI vs. Human Intelligence

So, AI is a machine’s ability to analyze data and give solutions based on programming and past data, while human intelligence is a natural ability that humans are born with and can provide ethical and moral considerations in decision-making.

That said, AI may not be too far from growing sentience as of today.

Signs of High Intelligence
Are blue-eyed people highly intelligent?

5 Body Signs of Genius Or High-IQ People

How to know if you have a high IQ? Some studies suggest that certain body parts may be signs of above-average intelligence.

  1. Blue Eyes: According to a study, blue-eyed people are more studious, more strategic, and more focused, and thus outperform brown-eyed people in exams.
  2. Left-handedness: Left-handed people are 3 times more likely to be smart, intelligent, or born geniuses. Studies suggest that left-handed people use both sides of their brain, and are more emotionally intelligent, flexible, and sharp. They also retain memories better, making them quick learners.
  3. Bigger Foreheads: People who larger foreheads tend to do better in mental games and math tests. It may be due to their bigger forebrain—the seat of higher thinking and complex reasoning. History shows that many highly intelligent people have larger foreheads.
  4. Smaller Belly: Studies suggest a link between staying fit and being intelligent. Researchers have found that those with higher body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratios (WHR) had lower brain volumes. Belly fat is usually made up of visceral fat which can release hormones that increase inflammation and damage brain cells.
  5. Long Legs: Tallness may have links to better cognitive abilities, suggest some studies. It could be due to better nutrition and playtime exercises in toddlers and preschoolers, which appear to boost their brain health and make them smarter in brain-related tasks.


  1. Do IQ and intelligence decrease over a lifetime?

    Yes, the average raw IQ score decreases with age over a lifetime, even though the average IQ at older ages stays at 100 (Desjardins & Warnke, 2012).
    Fluid intelligence (the ability to think quickly and solve problems easily) starts to drop around the age of 30 to 40.
    Crystallized intelligence (knowledge and skills acquired through learning and experience) keeps growing over a lifetime and tends to peak around the age of 60 or 70.

  2. Are high IQ test scores reliable signs of high intelligence?

    Yes, high scores in intelligence reliably point to higher intelligence. One of the signs of high IQ in adults is that they typically perform well on IQ tests. While 95% of people have IQs ranging from 70 to 130, exceptionally intelligent people score over 130. Those who score more than 145 are in the top 1% of intelligent people.

    Also note that while high IQ scores are universal measures of human intelligence, they also suggest a highly motivated mental state to take the test. So, a smart person who is unmotivated (maybe due to their age) can have a low IQ and still be a genius.

    We may also tell if a person is intelligent without knowing their IQ test scores. For example, lower-intelligence individuals mostly learn from their successes. While high-intelligence people learn from both their failures and their successes in life.

  3. What are the five signs of a highly intelligent person?

    Here are five signs of a highly intelligent person:
    1. Curiosity: Highly intelligent people are curious to learn about the world around them. They constantly ask questions and seek new information.
    2. Open-mindedness: Highly intelligent people are open to new ideas and views. They are willing to challenge their own beliefs and learn from others. They are not afraid to admit when they are wrong.
    3. Critical thinking skills: Highly intelligent people can think critically about given information and identify biases. They can evaluate evidence and make sound judgments.
    4. Problem-solving skills: Highly intelligent people are good at identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, and implementing the best solution. They can identify the root cause of a problem and develop creative solutions.
    5. Creativity: Highly intelligent people are creative. They can come up with new ideas and solutions to problems. They can think outside the box and see things from a different perspective.

  4. What is fluid intelligence?

    Fluid intelligence is the ability to think quickly and solve problems, even if you have never seen the problem before. It is the kind of intelligence that you use when you are trying to figure out a new puzzle or game. Fluid intelligence is also important for learning new things and adapting to new situations.
    Fluid intelligence is often tested using Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which is a test that requires you to look at a series of patterns and figure out the next pattern in the series.
    Fluid intelligence is associated with the executive attention brain network, which is the part of the brain that helps us focus and make decisions.

  5. Do IQ tests predict academic achievement?

    IQ scores predict academic performance to some extent, but it’s not the whole story. If we look at how people score on IQ tests, about 50% of them will outperform their predicted achievement based on IQ scores. That shows that doing well in school isn’t just about IQ. There’s a lot more to it, and relying on IQ scores alone will not show the academic success and limitations of a school-goer.

  6. What is emotional intelligence (EQ)?

    Daniel Goleman’s book ‘Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’ popularized the concept of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EQ) is about how we handle social situations, get things done, and regulate our emotions. EQ correlates with IQ, but IQ is a better predictor of academic achievement.

  7. What is the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale?

    The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale is a test used to measure an adult’s cognitive abilities. It delves into various aspects of intelligence, such as problem-solving, memory, and comprehension. It’s not solely focused on academic knowledge but explores how the brain handles different tasks. Mental health professionals often use this scale to assess an individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

  8. What is the Flynn effect?

    The Flynn Effect is an interesting phenomenon in which IQ scores steadily increase over time. Named after James Flynn, a researcher, it’s a reminder that intelligence isn’t fixed and that many factors can influence how we measure it.
    For example, people, on average, would score higher on an IQ test from 50 years ago as compared to one today, suggesting that the world has become smarter today.

  9. What are the 20 signs of high intelligence?

    20 signs of high intelligence:

    1. Quick learning: Highly intelligent people can learn new information quickly and easily.
    2. Interest in unique topics: Highly intelligent people are often interested in topics that are unique or challenging.
    3. Ability to process new and complex information rapidly: They can process new and complex information quickly and efficiently.
    4. Desire to explore specific topics in great depth: Highly intelligent people are often driven to explore specific topics in great depth.
    5. High level of creativity: They are often vastly creative and can come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.
    6. High level of curiosity: They are often highly curious. They are constantly asking questions and seeking out new information.
    7. Learning educational material at grade levels ahead: Many highly intelligent children learn educational material at grade levels ahead of their peers.
    8. Emotional depth and sensitivity: They often have an in-depth understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others.
    9. Excitement about unique topics or interests: They are often excited about their unique topics or interests. They talk about them with passion and enthusiasm.
    10. Empathy: They are often empathetic and can better understand and share the feelings of others.
    11. Valuing of solitude: Highly intelligent people often value solitude. They enjoy spending time alone to think and reflect.
    12. Strong sense of self: They often have a strong sense of self. They know who they are and what they believe in.
    13. Observant and good memory: They are often observant and have a good memory. They can notice details and remember information for long periods of time.
    14. Good attitude and hard-working nature: They often have a good attitude and are hard-working. They are motivated to achieve their goals.
    15. General and tacit knowledge: They often have a broad base of general and tacit knowledge. They can apply their knowledge to a variety of situations.
    16. Language proficiency and reasoning: They have strong language proficiency and reasoning skills. They can communicate effectively and think critically.
    17. Good decision-making skills: They can often make good decisions. They can weigh the pros and cons of different options and choose the best option.
    18. Problem-solving skills: They are often good problem-solvers. They can identify problems, analyze them, and develop solutions.
    19. High levels of insight and intuition: They often have high levels of insight and intuition. They can see the big picture and understand complex issues.
    20. High emotional intelligence: Highly intelligent people often have high emotional intelligence. They can understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others.

Final Words

Three fascinating takeaways:

  1. Your parents are not as much responsible for your intelligence as you might think. The link between a parent’s IQ and a child’s IQ is just about 10%.
  2. Genes determine roughly 45-75% of our general intelligence, 60% of our verbal intelligence, and 20% of our performance intelligence (Davies, Tenesa, et al., 2011). There are at least a thousand of these “intelligence genes.”
  3. Psychologists propose a hierarchy of cognitive abilities, with general intelligence (“g”) at the top. Robert Sternberg’s theory of successful intelligence comprises analytical, creative, and practical intelligences. He addressed practical skills and creativity while considering adaptation to stress. This broadened the concept of intelligence beyond analytical abilities.

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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