Having a high IQ apparently isn’t the only thing that marks out smart people from everyone else. You see, experts believe there are 20 more personality traits that prove you could very well be an intellectual. And as some of these quirks and habits come completely out of leftfield, you may be surprised to learn that you, too, could be much cleverer than you actually think.
20. They read a lot
Let’s kick off with something obvious: some of the smartest folk around love to get lost in a good book. Of course, this depends on the contents of said tome, as an in-depth text on quantum physics is likely a greater indication of the reader’s intelligence than a copy of Where’s Waldo? But, hey, everyone’s got to start somewhere.
And there’s evidence to suggest that reading itself can help to boost your brainpower. According to data from the U.K.’s Twins Early Development Study, sets of twins who read displayed higher intelligence than those who didn’t. One of the researchers involved in the experiment, Stuart Ritchie, told Medical News Today as much in 2014, and he also considered it “surprising” that the study showed “effects on non-verbal intelligence.”
19. They’re curious
Strangely enough, Curious George may have been something of a rogue scholar. Yes, apparently, displaying an insatiable curiosity is an indication that you’re one of the smartest among us. That’s what U.K. researchers concluded in a report published in the Journal of Individual Differences in 2016.
Among the children this study followed, the ones deemed to be most intelligent at age 11 showed greater curiosity in later life. As a result, it’s thought that there’s a direct correlation between inquisitiveness and smarts. Essentially, if you have a passion for learning, you’ll find out more about the world simply because you want to.
18. They think outside the box
Many famously intelligent people have been considered weird or eccentric by their peers. Take Einstein, for example, with his crazy hair and strange ideas. Now, the famous physicist is widely regarded as a genius who was ahead of his time – and that’s partly because he thought outside of the proverbial box.
Often, the smartest folks share a tendency to consider rules and traditions as mere guidelines. And while this may make them seem odd or even arrogant at times, it’s not always a bad thing. You see, people who aren’t limited by rigid thought processes can sometimes find solutions and overcome problems more efficiently than their by-the-book peers.
17. They’re observant
Although Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot may both be fictional, they’re still good examples of clever folks. How? Well, that’s down in part to their keen observational skills – another one of the defining traits of intelligent people. But what exactly is it about noticing details that suggests you may have a high IQ?
Well, according to psychologist Dr. Catherine Jackson, it’s all down to how the brain processes information, as watching a situation closely allows you to pick up on subtle details that others overlook. In 2019 she told Bustle that the cleverest individuals out there focus less on trying to talk themselves up and more on taking note of the world around them.
16. They exhibit self-control
We’re all slaves to our impulses from time to time, but supposedly people with higher IQs can more easily curb their desires and go right on with their lives. Why? It’s probably because they’re able to think ahead with one eye on the future. And in 2009 Psychological Science featured results from a study that appears to support this theory.
The experiment in question involved offering test groups some money either immediately or at some point in the future. If the participants held out, they’d get more cash further down the line, and as it happens the subjects with the higher intelligence scores opted to wait for their payouts. The research team suspected that a part of the brain known as the anterior prefrontal cortex is responsible for this decision-making process.
15. They’re creative
It’s easy to think of intelligence and creativity as different beasts, as they’re controlled by opposite hemispheres in the brain. Actually, though, the opposite is more likely to be true, as clever people are often innovative while attempting to achieve their goals, exploring options that wouldn’t usually be associated with the task in hand.
Let’s bring in Einstein again. In a 1929 feature by The Saturday Evening Post, the scientist was quoted as explaining how he used creativity in his work. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” he said, “for knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress [and] giving birth to evolution.”
14. They’re night owls
Do you stay up late into the night and sleep in the following morning? Then here’s some good news: you could be an intellectual. Yes, while the late-to-bed-and-late-to-rise lifestyle is often somewhat disparaged, there’s reason to believe that nocturnal humans are smarter than their early-bird counterparts.
A theory featured in Psychology Today suggests that the more intelligent among us once overcame our natural biological clocks, becoming more nocturnal in order to better achieve personal targets. The results of a study published in 2009 in Personality and Individual Difference also seems to corroborate the hypothesis that folks who turn in late are among the smartest of us.
13. They may prefer their own company
While it’s said that no man – or woman – is an island, people with high IQs may argue otherwise. Yes, while humans may largely be a social species, a study by evolutionary psychologists Norman P. Li and Satoshi Kanazawa found that being with others doesn’t always do folks good.
In their “savanna theory of happiness,” Li and Kanazawa claim that when many people spend time with friends, their levels of happiness tend to increase. But, apparently, this isn’t always the case with the more intelligent, who instead often feel less content around their buddies.
12. They know their limits
You may assume that high-IQ people are less likely to say “I don’t know” when they’re confronted with tricky problems. But it seems that the opposite may be true. Both Jackson and Jim Winer on Quora have stated that smarter folks are more likely to admit to gaps in their knowledge.
“If they don’t know it, they can learn it,” Winer claimed in 2018. “That’s the pay-off.” And Jackson seemed to concur when talking to Bustle. “[Intelligent people] know their limits and can admit it,” she said. “This allows them to be open to learning more from others and/or situations.”
11. They’re open-minded
Intriguingly, a Yale University survey has indicated that those with higher IQs are receptive to new ideas. Yes, in 2008 one of the college’s research teams found that clever people listen to all sides of an argument. Only then, when presented with a diverse selection of opinions, do they make up their own minds.
The process is called delay discounting, and it’s a behavior associated with the brain’s anterior prefrontal cortex. Smart people are also supposedly less likely to let their opinions be swayed; if they’ve already made considered and calculated choices, they trust their judgments and stick with them.
10. They’re messy
You’ve probably heard that a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. But although people may have thought that way in the past, it seems that the old adage should be brought up to date. You see, messy surfaces within a home may in fact prove that a pretty smart person lives there.
In a research project that came to light in 2012, academics from the Netherlands’ University of Groningen found that some individuals actually thrive intellectually in a messy environment. The disorganization helps, in fact, as the brain is therefore forced to focus more. In addition, researchers at the University of Minnesota discovered that students with desks in disarray demonstrated a higher degree of creativity than their more organized peers. And if that all isn’t proof enough, you should know that some of the smartest people to have ever lived, including Einstein, Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, all worked among clutter.
9. They’re really funny
Any good writer or comedian will tell you that reliably making people laugh is pretty difficult. But if research from the University of New Mexico is anything to go by, bringing the funny is easier for intellectuals. In 2011 a team from the institution concluded that people who penned the most hilarious jokes for cartoons had higher verbal intelligence scores than others. Another study suggested that the same is also true of stand-ups.
And that’s not all, as keen minds have noticed a pattern in the humor that smart people share. Specifically, those with good verbal and non-verbal intelligence were seemingly particularly receptive to black comedy. This doesn’t suggest that the folks in question have any truly troubling personality traits, though. Rather, they simply seem to enjoy off-color jokes, according to a 2017 article in the journal Cognitive Processing.
8. They’re empathetic
For the longest time, experts considered IQ and emotional intelligence to be unconnected. And, indeed, it’s become something of a stereotype that clever people often lack social skills. That’s been amply demonstrated by the eponymous detective of BBC series Sherlock as well as in sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory.
But in 2014 a study printed in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience contested this consensus. During their investigations, the team studied the neural pathways of former armed forces personnel who’d all suffered head wounds and concluded as a result that we may not know as much about empathy as we think. It turns out, in fact, that such compassion for others is closely associated with intelligence, meaning it could be a sign of a high-level IQ.
7. They talk to themselves
Talking to yourself isn’t necessarily the first sign of madness; instead, it’s perhaps more likely to be an indicator of intelligence. Just don’t speak out loud in different voices, as that could make people scared. And in 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison associate professor of psychology Gary Lupyan told the BBC that such a practice is actually rather normal. “It’s not an irrational thing to do,” he stated.
“You don’t know everything you’re going to say,” Lupyan continued. “You can even surprise yourself. Saying a name out loud is a powerful retrieval cue. Think of it as a pointer to a chunk of information in your mind. Hearing the name exaggerates what might normally happen if you just bring something to mind. Language boosts that process.”
6. They’re modest
Yes, that’s right – despite knowing more than the rest of us, an intelligent person won’t tell you so. We’re joking, of course, but it’s true that smarter people tend to be more modest. And psychologists are aware that there’s a correlation between intelligence and this form of self-effacement – a phenomenon that has been dubbed the Dunning-Kruger effect.
In particular, the Dunning-Kruger effect links a person’s ability level to their own self-awareness. While testing their theories in a psychology class, David Dunning and Justin Kruger found that the most competent students underestimated their own expertise in a range of tasks; conversely, the less skilled learners appeared to show unwarranted confidence in their proficiency.
5. They’re cat people
People fight like cats and dogs over which fluffy pet is better. But while canines may be man’s best friend, the smartest among us actually prefer felines. At least, that’s what Denise Guastello, an expert from Wisconsin’s Carroll University, found during a personality study.
It appears, too, that cats and dogs suit different personality types. In 2014 Guastello told LiveScience, “It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people [and] bringing their dog. Whereas, if you’re more introverted and sensitive, maybe you’re more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.”
4. They’re anxious
If you’re a worrier, then there’s some good news for once: high levels of anxiety seem to have a positive connection to verbal intelligence. Indeed, in 2015 academics from Ontario, Canada’s Lakehead University studied 44 volunteers and found that the cleverest participants worried more over past social situations. But don’t despair if that doesn’t sound like you.
After all, for people without some form of diagnosed anxiety disorder, not worrying about the past at all also indicated intelligence. So, the two extremes are both signs of smarts; it just depends on your general state of mind. For those interested in the biology, these feelings of nervousness and panic all seem to come from your brain’s subcortical white matter.
3. They swear a lot
There’s a common misconception that if someone swears a lot, it’s because they have a limited vocabulary. Well, experts say the opposite actually holds true, as cussing is apparently a sign of high verbal intelligence. Yes, researchers have discovered that sailor talk proves your vocab is actually more likely to be wide-ranging.
Timothy and Kristin Jay of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts elaborated on this point in the conclusion to their investigation. “The overall finding of this set of studies, that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency, undermines the [normal] view of swearing,” they wrote. So, having the confidence to use controversial words seems to be an IQ power move.
2. They’re first-borns
The news that eldest children are usually the smartest is surely a cause for yet more sibling rivalry. Any disgruntled brothers and sisters should be pointed, however, to a study conducted by Norway’s National Institute of Occupational Health. And, interestingly, the project lead, Professor Petter Kristensen, doesn’t think that genetics play a key role in this phenomenon.
Instead, Kristensen believes that it’s down to how firstborns are raised compared to other kids. Specifically, the theory is that the family environment is somehow more conducive to intellectual development for the eldest child in the clan. Yet while other studies support this hypothesis, it’s not been proved beyond all doubt. In 2017 Kristensen informed the Daily Mail, “We are cautious because we did not have data on the social and psychological climate in [test families].”
1. They were breastfed
Don’t begrudge people who breastfeed their kids in public, as they could be creating geniuses. Several tests show, after all, that breastfed babies are around six IQ points smarter than their counterparts. This includes the results of a study featured in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2007.
There is a caveat, though: only babies with a specific type of the gene known as FADS2 seem to receive such benefits. The 2007-published study postulates that children with this trait metabolize certain acids in breast milk more efficiently. And while additional research is needed on the matter to confirm its veracity, it’s certainly food for thought if you’re the parent of a newborn.
Of course, attractiveness is often prized as much as intelligence – sometimes even more so. And while beauty is naturally in the eye of the beholder, there were certain qualities that men in the ’60s prized above all others when picking a prospective partner – although some of these traits sound very strange today.
For many people, the 1960s are considered to be an era of great change for traditional gender stereotypes. Yet women in general still had to adhere to rigid societal expectations – arguably enforced by members of the opposite sex. And quite frankly, some of the things that men seemingly found attractive at the time are downright bizarre.
40. Bare legs
The 1960s gave rise to perhaps one of the biggest fashion statements of all time: the miniskirt. Popular among young women of the day, the leg-baring garment would later come to represent an entire era of sexual emancipation. But back then, some treated wearing the item as simply an easy way to rebel against their parents.
39. Flawless pins
Given the popularity of the miniskirt, having flawless legs became a new concern for women. Long before Kim Kardashian launched her own line of body make-up, then, ladies in the 1960s actually started painting their pins to ensure that they looked perfect. Mind you, women had drawn on their legs before – but that was during the Second World War when stockings were scarce.
38. Acting demure
As previously noted, the 1960s are often seen as a period of liberation for women. Yet for the most part, ladies were still expected to take a back seat in society. In certain states, for instance, women were still not allowed to serve on juries or study at some colleges. And even after the contraceptive pill was introduced in 1960, many single females were still not permitted to have prescriptions.
37. Drinking only in moderation
We might today speak of the Swinging Sixties like they were a ten-year party – but that wasn’t necessarily the case for women. Because while wider society was okay with females drinking liquor, women still were often arguably expected to do so in a “ladylike” manner. So this meant that a tipple with dinner was acceptable, but anything more than that might be deemed inappropriate. Getting drunk was obviously a big no-no, then.
36. The “Lolita” look
While the curvaceous Marilyn Monroe had previously been the ultimate pin-up girl, the 1960s heralded in a completely different kind of muse. Inspired by British fashion model Twiggy and the like, the new desired female look was thin and youthful in appearance. It is apparently believed that this “Lolita” style was actually a rejection of maturity – both in dress and attitude.
35. Seeming uninterested
Another trend that Twiggy seemingly helped to popularize was the far-off gaze. This, in effect, served to make women appear like they were in a constant state of boredom. The phenomenon may also have arisen because it was still considered taboo for women to appear intelligent. Vacant expressions therefore became the order of the day.
When it came to finding the perfect wives in the 1960s, men from some circles didn’t take into account women’s jobs. That’s because ladies were expected to make their families their priority after marriage. And as a result of these expectations, women often had to choose child-rearing over their careers.
33. Valuing chastity
With sexual liberation still in its infancy, women were still expected to behave in a certain way during courtship. This included, for example, not going in for a kiss on a first date and dressing modestly. And anything that could have been considered as promiscuous was likely frowned upon. Yet at the same time, ladies were nonetheless supposed to appear free-spirited and lively.
32. Ditching the bra
Some women ditched their bras in political dissent throughout the ’60s. Yet others shed the undergarment to simply make a fashion statement. The trend was sparked – at least in part – by the designer Yves Saint Laurent, who had braless models at his runway shows for the sake of emanating a freer sensibility.
In the average household of the 1960s, men ruled the roost. And women were just supposed to accept this. So even if a husband was in the wrong, his wife might be forced to shoulder the blame. In women’s problem pages of the time, in fact, wives were often urged to see concerns from their spouses’ points of view in order to rectify them.
By the end of the decade, athletics was actively encouraged among women, with an increasing number of females taking up sport. This culminated in the 1972 act determining that the same amounts of federal funding should be provided for both sexes at college level. Before this, though, participating in competitive sport was seemingly not seen as a priority for women.
29. But not being the sporting type
In fact, professional women’s sports were still not taken altogether seriously. And, on occasion, if a lady had wanted to participate in a certain sporting event, she might have expected a negative reaction from the menfolk. In fact, women were actually banned from many marathons. That’s why Kathrine Switzer caused controversy in 1967 when she ran the Boston Marathon under the ambiguous name K. V. Switzer.
28. Leaving the military to the men
Another realm of public life that women were excluded from in the 1960s was the military. Females were indeed prohibited from signing up to military academies – with one of the reasons apparently being that salutes and marches were unbecoming for a lady. In fact, the West Point Academy only first allowed female students in 1976.
27. Putting their man’s needs before their own
Flicking through women’s magazines from the 1960s reveals a lot about gender roles of the time. In one particularly telling Cosmopolitan article published in 1965, readers were advised on “38 Ways to Coddle a Man.” One of the so-called tips suggested that wives don’t awaken their sleeping partners – even if they’re lonely. Ladies were also encouraged to give their “full, rapt, before-marriage attention when he’s telling you what happened at the office.”
26. Channeling their inner Cher
Aside from Twiggy, another major style icon from the 1960s was Cher. The singer in fact earned respect by breaking into the predominately male-commanded music industry and mixing things up with her unique style. Back then, you see, Cher was known for her long, dark locks and sporting the latest trends. And her looks captivated many men and women.
25. Long, thick eyelashes
Twiggy was a fans of long, sweeping lashes. Indeed, the model helped to popularize the trend among young women. Back in the 1960s, you see, fluttering eyelashes were quite revolutionary – and remain popular to this day, thanks, in part, to celebrities like the Kardashians. To achieve the look in the ’60s, then, girls often used lots of mascara, finished with a flick of eyeliner.
24. Knowing her place in a “man’s world”
Advertisements from the 1960s often did nothing to shatter harmful gender stereotypes. And this ridiculous tie ad from the era is no different. It implores men, after all, to “show her it’s a man’s world” by sporting a patterned tie. And the accompanying illustration depicts a woman kneeling at her husband’s bedside while presenting him with a tray of refreshments.
23. Not being a prude
As we’ve seen, chastity was valued in women of the 1960s. But conversely, females could also apparently take things too far. As a 1957 article from Ladies’ Home Journal warned mothers, “If your daughter is too prudish, lacks spontaneity and is always in a state of conflict, she may also not be able to make a happy marriage.”
22. Long boots
With all those thigh-skimming miniskirts to contend with, women’s legs were bound to get a bit cold from time to time. It should come as no surprise, then, that long boots eventually became extremely popular. Originally favored by teenage dancers, the footwear became widely fashionable at the end of the decade.
21. Being marriage material
Back in the 1960s, it was deemed important for women to be of good marriage material. Ladies’ Home Journal even ran a quiz in 1957 so that mothers could gauge their daughters’ potential as wives. One question asked if the girl had attended blind dates. Another asked if she would “pet when she goes steady?” Or did “she refuse to go to church regularly?” All of these were seen as negatives, by the way.
While society still had rigid ideas of gender roles in the 1960s, the decade did mark the start of the women’s liberation movement. This crusade set out to challenge notions of femininity and actually gave rise to androgynous fashions. The trend was also helped along by icons such as Twiggy, who – with her slim build and short hair – personified the popular boyish look of the day.
19. Having massage skills
Even in this day and age, finding a partner who’s a masseuse would be a bonus. But a 1965 Cosmopolitan article actually encouraged women to brush up on their massaging skills in order to please their men. “His idea of Nirvana is a vigorous back rub,” it advised. “Take a course in Swedish massage.”
18. Long loose locks
Partly thanks to the influence of stars such as Cher, long luscious locks became commonplace among both genders during the 1960s. So for men and women alike, the hairstyle was considered to be a form of rebellion from the labor-intensive hairstyles of generations past. But as the decade progressed, flowing tresses became increasingly associated with the burgeoning hippie movement.
17. Earn like a man
According to a 1974 article in Cosmopolitan, the only way women could enjoy the same earning power as their male counterparts was if they got a “man’s job.” Yet the piece warned that not all females are suitable for such tasks. So to determine if readers were up to the job, Cosmo urged women to ask themselves, “Can you keep going without a daily dose of praise?”
16. But save any sexual advances for out-of-office times
And if women were successful enough to make it in a “man’s world,” the Cosmo article warned that romance had no place in the office. “Can you regard men as people instead of sex objects?” the piece asked. It then stated, “The working world is full of men, and they are not there to play the mating game.”
15. Vinyl clothing
Of all the fashion trends of the 1960s, vinyl clothing was one of the more out-there. Made from PVC plastic, the garments were known for their shiny appearance and see-through styles. And even fashion icon Audrey Hepburn seemingly embraced the fad, donning a black vinyl trouser suit in the 1967 movie Two for the Road.
14. Being willing to marry young
In 2013 the average age a person would marry in the United States was 27 for women and 29 for men. But back in the 1960s, people tended to wed much younger. In fact, 79 percent of adults were married, with the average age for tying the knot being just 20 for brides and 23 for grooms.
13. Flat chests
As curves gradually fell out of fashion, skinnier frames became more en vogue – and so too did flatter chests. Linda Przybyszewski, author of The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, explained that during the 1960s “curvaceous women were passed over in favor of underweight teenagers.” Larger breasts were therefore no longer considered fashionable.
12. Flat bottoms
Bigger butts were also apparently deemed undesirable. But the 1960s’ obsession with slimness wasn’t exactly a healthy one. One article that appeared in an edition of Vogue at the time told of a woman who “reduced her 39-inch hips down to 34 inches through exercise, ‘standing correctly’ and using ‘a special rolling pin,’” Linda Przybyszewski wrote.
11. Being a homemaker
The ads from the 1960s make it clear that a woman’s place was still expected to be very much in the home. And while the decade is generally considered to be an era of great change, females continued to have less rights than their husbands. By and large, in fact, the only roles women were expected to fulfill were those of housewives and objects of desire.
10. No Ivy League education
During the 1960s, it was remarkably unusual for a woman to have an Ivy League education. Because while Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania accepted female students from the 1870s on, these institutions only did so in exceptional circumstances. Princeton and Yale didn’t admit women until 1969, either, and Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard followed suit during the 1970s. Yet it was Columbia that held out the longest – deciding to accept its first female students in 1981.
9. Big beehives
Alongside long locks, beehives were another popular hairstyle of the ’60s. It’s believed that Margaret Vinci Heldt, a hairdresser from Chicago, came up with the ’do in 1960, in fact. But little did she know that the style would go on to become one of the most iconic hairstyles of the decade and beyond.
8. The weaker sex
For many years, women were long considered to be the weaker sex. And at the onset of the 1960s, that view looked unlikely to change – especially when you consider this 1959 Drummond ad. It advises, “Indoors women are useful – even pleasant. On a mountain, they are something of a drag. So don’t go hauling them up a cliff just to show off your Drummond climbing sweaters.”
7. Willingness to give up a career
In the 1960s women were expected to give up their careers when the time came to wed and have children. Their new job was to be homemaking – a task apparently said to require 55 hours of work a week. Discussing this injustice in her landmark 1963 book The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan wrote, “A woman today has been made to feel freakish and alone and guilty if, simply, she wants to be more than her husband’s wife.”
6. Surrendering control of their finances
During the 1960s, women were prohibited from opening bank accounts or taking out credit cards without their husbands’ written approval. And what’s more, unmarried women could be denied credit cards altogether. It was only with 1974’s Equal Credit Opportunity Act that banks were actually forbidden to refuse females credit cards on the basis of their gender alone.
5. Being a klutz
If a certain 1964 advert for Volkswagen is to be believed, it was perfectly acceptable for women of the time to be less than careful with the family cars. “Women are soft and gentle, but they hit things,” it read. Then, in a bizarre twist of marketing, the one-sheet added, “If your wife hits something in a Volkswagen, it doesn’t hurt very much. VW parts are easy to replace.”
4. Questionable feminine hygiene practices
The issue of “feminine hygiene” is still controversial today – but we’ve made some strides in that department since the 1960s. Back then, you see, douching was normal and in fact encouraged by advertisements in women’s magazines. Douches were also marketed in a way that led women to believe that men wouldn’t find them desirable if they didn’t use one.
3. Skills in the kitchen
In another cringeworthy ad from the 1960s, a woman is portrayed as her husband’s personal cook. Yes, the promotion for a Kenwood Chef food mixer sees a couple smiling alongside their new kitchen gadget. But while that appears innocent enough, the caption reads, “The chef does everything but cook – that’s what wives are for.”
While the habit isn’t encouraged nowadays, back in the 1960s lady smokers were deemed incredibly attractive. But they were only permitted to light up when appropriate. For instance, it was considered impolite for a woman to smoke on the street. And ladies were also supposed to carry their own cigarettes. “No man will marry a woman who’s always bumming theirs,” Peg Bracken warned in her 1964 etiquette guide I Try to Behave Myself.
We’ve already established that for women of the 1960s, work was usually in the home. So it may come as no surprise that the upkeep of the family abode often fell to them. Advertisements for cleaning products tended to be aimed at females too. This vacuum promotion, for instance, claims, “Christmas morning (and forever after) she’ll be happier with a Hoover.”