If These 11 Things Apply to You, You May Be Smarter Than You Think

Updated: May 22, 2024

How many things can you check off this list?

What does it mean to be smart?

Bright, clever, witty and knowledgeable are just some ways people define smartness. Some might even throw the word genius into the mix. Doctors have their own definitions, too. A genius is traditionally someone with extreme intellectual skill with high IQ test scores, says Judy Ho, PhD, a triple board-certified clinical, forensic, and neuropsychologist, and author of Stop Self Sabotage. Although, she says these tests don’t always offer the full-picture because some genius skills, like creative problem-solving, are harder to measure.

Defining smartness as well as genius might not be clear-cut, but overall, most people agree that smart people have a high level of thinking. You might be one of them if these things apply to you.

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1. You’re the oldest child

A study published in the Journal of Human Resources suggests that firstborns might have a “mental edge” over their younger siblings as they tend to have higher IQs. According to researchers, this is because parents often offer older kids more mental stimulation, they breastfeed and they take fewer risks like drinking and smoking during the first pregnancy. So smart older children aren’t necessarily a result of genetics.

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2. You have anxiety

Research in the journal Intelligence suggests that geniuses, or people with higher IQs, report more mood and anxiety disorder diagnoses than the national average. Dr. Ho says this could be because geniuses often overthink everything since they try to achieve perfection. This level of high self-reflection, plus a more neurotic personality, links to a higher risk for anxiety and other mental health distress, according to Dr. Ho.

Anyone who is a bit different is also susceptible to suffering from social challenges, according to Catherine Franssen, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of neurostudies at Longwood University. “That includes those who are different because of something that seems like a positive trait, like a genius,” Dr. Franssen says.

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3. You’re an athlete

Many geniuses are physically active, according to Rahul Jandial MD, PhD, the author of Neurofitness, and a dual-trained brain surgeon and neuroscientist at City of Hope in Los Angeles. “There is clear evidence showing physical activity sharpens the mind and allows for unique connections in concepts and thoughts,” Dr. Jandial says.

This boost in brain function is because stress of all kinds supplies neurons with more blood, so they can grow, connect, and enhance the brain, Dr. Franssen adds.

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4. You’re a night owl

A study from the London School of Economics and Political Science suggests that people who tend to go to bed later have higher IQs. The researchers believe this is because of evolution. Nighttime meant danger, so our ancestors who chose to stay up and out late instead of sleep needed to be smart.

Dr. Franssen adds that working late or outside the typical nine to five workday allows for more innovation and creative thought as there are fewer interruptions or demands, and different expectations. “A genius might choose to work at odd hours to improve creative thought,” she says. “Or more time spent on creative thought at odd hours might develop genius.”

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5. You adapt easily

Being adaptable means having the intelligence and awareness to see things from a fresh perspective, according to Dr. Jandial. “That means being able to see connections or solutions that others can’t,” he says. New problems and challenges require new, novel solutions, something smart people and geniuses are comfortable with, Dr. Ho adds. Psychologists also say adaptation requires other cognitive processes, too, such as reasoning, perception, problem-solving, and memory.

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6. You have a dark sense of humor

If you appreciate “sick” jokes, you might be a genius. According to a study published in the journal Cognitive Processing, your reaction to dark humor may indicate your intelligence. The psychologists defined dark humor as, “humor that treats sinister subjects like death, disease, deformity, handicap or warfare with bitter amusement and presents such tragic, distressing or morbid topics in humorous terms.” Fans of these jokes might have higher IQs along with less aggression. Researchers claim processing dark humor jokes is more work for your brain.

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7. You took music lessons as a kid

Practicing music at a young age helps develop young minds in a few ways. One 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience found that kids who took structured music lessons tested higher on quizzes for verbal intelligence, planning, and inhibition. Another study in the Journal of Psychological Science found music lessons for 4- and 6-year-olds enhanced their verbal intelligence.

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8. You’re judgmental

Being judgmental isn’t the best trait to have, but a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General suggests that smart people may be more prone to stereotyping thanks to their ability to detect patterns.

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9. You’re messy

Creativity is thought to be a hallmark of most geniuses, according to Arif Dalvi, MD, MBA, of the Palm Beach Neuroscience Institute. If you’re messy, this could be a sign of creative genius. A study from the University of Minnesota asked participants to come up with atypical uses of a ping pong ball. The 24 people with neat rooms had less creative responses than those with messier rooms.

young man wearing glasses

10. You wear glasses

Intelligent people are more likely to have poor eyesight genes, according to a study from the University of Edinburgh. Smarter people were 30% more likely to have genes indicating they need glasses. There’s also plenty of research saying people who wear glasses are thought of as smarter, too.

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11. You prefer being alone

Researchers from Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics asked 15,000 people between the ages of 18 to 28 to take a survey and an IQ test. The results show that highly intelligent people were less happy with their lives the more social they were.