These Are the Ages When You’re Smartest at Everything (Don’t Worry—It’s Not Downhill After 30)

Updated: Aug. 03, 2017

Good news: It's not all downhill!


Age 11: Learning a new language

If you want your kids to be bilingual, better start them young. A landmark 1975 study found that 11-year-old English kids learned French better than their younger peers. Scholars disagree on the exact best age to pick up a new language; some say it gets harder after age seven, while others argue any time before puberty isn’t too late. But all agree on one thing: Kids are better at learning a new language than adults. By adulthood, you know your native language so well that it’s harder to train your brain away from it. Have your kids learn these three languages to guarantee success when they grow up.


Age 18: Speedy learning and attention

There could be a reason your kids are so good at cramming for tests. Researchers gave Americans between 16 and 89 years old a series of tests to figure out when they peaked in different types of cognitive functions. Participants in their late teens did best on a test matching numbers with symbols. The test is supposed to measure associative learning (i.e. which number goes with which symbol), plus attention, speed, memory, and more, according to the study in Psychological Science. Steal these habits of people with impressive memories to keep your mind sharp.


Age 24: Remembering names

We’ve all been there: You meet someone for the second time and cannot remember for the life of you what the person’s name is. A study in the journal Cognition looking at volunteers between age 10 and 70 found out that after age 23 to 24, adults find it harder to memorize names. So don’t feel bad! Use these tricks to never forget anyone’s name.


Age 32: Recognizing people

Ever been approached by a total stranger (or so you thought) who seems to think you’ve met before? This isn’t a matter of putting a name to the face—it has to do with recognizing the face in the first place. That same study in Cognition determined you’ll peak at facial recognition between age 30 and 34. And that could help you learn names, too—science says you probably look like your name.

Age 48: Reading emotions

Honing your emotional intelligence is just as crucial as “hard” knowledge. You’ll probably be best at reading others’ emotions when you’re middle aged. The 2015 Psychological Science study tested how well volunteers could figure out emotions just by looking at another person’s eyes. The peak age for recognizing feelings was around 48, though it stayed pretty stable between ages 40 and 60. Find out how to tell if you’re raising emotionally intelligent kids, too.


Age 50: Being the go-to for information

Some people just seem to know everything—and part of it might be their age. The Psychological Science study found that 50 was the peak age for understanding information. And those people weren’t just rattling off facts, either. Not only those who’d just gone over the hump best at telling the “what” in general knowledge question, but they were also best at explaining the “why.” Don’t miss these other weird habits that prove you’re smart.


Age 50: Arithmetic

More good news for middle age! Adults are best at solving math problems at age 50, according to the study in Psychological Science. So sorry, but you can’t use that as an excuse for “accidentally” leaving a bad tip quite yet. (Just use our tipping guide to figure out the right amount.)


Age 60: Vocabulary

Well, this explains why your grandma always beat you at Scrabble. The Psychological Science study found that adults knew the most words somewhere between age 55 and 65. “It looks like there is a plateau,” says study author Joshua Hartshorne, PhD, assistant professor at Boston College. “It’s like asking what age you are tallest at. For most of us, we reach our maximum height and stay there for a while.” So you can look forward to many years of winning on Words With Friends. Get a jump start with these tricks for boosting your vocabulary in one day.