4 Body Parts That Could Reveal How Smart You Are, Research Says

Turns out, your brain may not be the only marker for your level of intelligence.

Who doesn’t love to learn about the genetic hints that you might be smarter than you think? Well, as it turns out, brains aren’t all in your head (if you will).
Over the years, research has drawn links between intelligence and a list of other traits. We’ll caveat this by noting that you have to read the science carefully to understand how these associations really occur—for example, do we simply associate greater height with a greater degree of capability in general? Either way, the reported links are intriguing.
Here are a few of the physical characteristics science has shown may actually be associated with smarts.
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Long legs

A study by researchers from Brown University and Princeton University suggested that taller people may earn more money than short people. The authors used government data sets that collected the height, weight, intelligence, educational experience, and salaries of people born in the U.S. or the U.K. in 1958 and 1970 from their birth into adulthood. The results of their analysis showed that the people who were tall as kids performed significantly better on cognitive tests. Plus, taller people tended to work in higher-paying occupations that required greater intelligence and more advanced verbal and numerical skills.

Many researchers still remain perplexed by the perceived connection between height and intelligence, but some suspect genetics or early childhood care could play an influential role on the brain.

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Child drawing happy family on paper. Top View
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Left-handed

Your dominant hand may not automatically indicate you’re a genius, but it could have its advantages. In fact, lefties may have the upper hand in reaping more cognitive benefits than righties. A small study from the University of Athens took about 100 university students and graduates—half left-handed and half right-handed—and gave them two cognitive tests. One challenged participants to make a trail through a batch of circles as quickly as possible, and the other included letter-number sequencing.

The lefties out-performed the righties on both tests, which suggested that they had a stronger working memory and greater mental flexibility. Some experts suspect these cognitive abilities may be because left-handed people can use both sides of their brain more readily to process information. Here are 8 more everyday things you never knew were making you smarter.

Man touching his fat belly on white background
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Body mass index

High body fat can have an impact on your overall wellbeing, from your blood pressure to your heart health—and possibly your cognitive function. In a five-year study of more than 2,200 adults, researchers found that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 20 or less (the healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9) could recall 56 percent of words in a vocabulary test, while obese participants (a BMI of 30 or higher) only remembered 44 percent. What’s more, the memory recall of the latter subjects dropped to 37.5 percent when they were retested five years later.

Dr. Maxime Cournot, the study’s lead author, theorized that fat hormones could damage brain cells. “Another explanation could be that since obesity is a widely known cardiovascular risk factor, due to the thickening and hardening of the blood vessels, that the same happens with the arteries in the brain,” Dr. Cournot told the Telegraph.

Cute Baby Girl Lying in the Crib. At home
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Big head

Next time somebody tells you have a big head, take it as a compliment. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry gave more than 500,000 people in the U.K. cognitive and physical assessments while also examining samples of their blood, urine, and saliva. Researchers found that people who had larger heads as infants had higher scores on verbal-numerical reasoning tests and were more likely to get a college degree. “These results,” they wrote, “should stimulate further research that will be informative about the specific genetic mechanisms of the associations found here, which likely involves both protective and detrimental effects of different genetic variants.”

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Ashley Lewis
Ashley Lewis received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. She was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News. and interned at Seventeen and FOX News before joining Reader’s Digest as an assistant editor. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for rd.com, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.