- Thinking you might be smarter than everyone else you know?
- You might be, scientists say, if you match any of the descriptions below.
- For example, smart people tend to be tall, funny, and firstborn children.
Everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room. How do you know if you are?
Over the course of decades, scientists have discovered a series of traits and behaviors linked to high intelligence. We’ve listed many of them below.
Note: These traits and behaviors don’t necessarily make you smarter. They’re simply associated with superior cognitive ability.
Read on to find out if you’re as brainy as you think.
Alyson Shontell, Drake Baer, and Chelsea Harvey contributed to earlier versions of this post.
You don’t smoke
- Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
A 2010 Israeli study compared the IQ and smoking status of 20,000 young men.
Results showed that:
- The average 18-to-21-year-old smoker had an IQ of 94, and the non-smoker had an IQ of 101.
- Those who smoked more than a pack a day had an average IQ of 90.
- In sibling sets, nonsmoking brothers were smarter than smokers.
You took music lessons
Research suggests that music helps kids’ minds develop in a few ways:
- A small 2011 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that the verbal intelligence of 4- to 6-year-olds rose after less than a month of music lessons.
- A 2004 study, also published in the journal Psychological Science, found that 6-year-olds who took nine months of piano lessons had an IQ boost compared with kids who took drama lessons or no classes at all.
- In a 2018 study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, kids given structured music lessons performed better than their peers on tests of verbal intelligence, planning, and inhibition.
But there’s some evidence to the contrary, such as a 2017 review that suggests music training won’t boost your cognitive abilities more generally – just your musical ones.
You’re the oldest child
Oldest siblings are usually smarter, but it’s not necessarily because of genetics.
An article in the December 2017 issue of the National Bureau of Economics Research Reporter argues that firstborn children are likely to become smarter, more successful, and richer than their siblings.
One possible reason, it says, is that parents are in some ways less invested in parenting after the first go-round.
Meanwhile, a 2015 review of studies, which included roughly 272,000 participants, found that differences in IQ and personality were so small as to be meaningless, pushing back on decades of other findings. In other words, it suggests that even if birth order is related to things like your job and your salary, it’s not because firstborns are inherently smarter or, say, more outgoing.
You have a moderate weight range
- Stefanie Loos / Reuters
For a 2006 French study, scientists gave 2,200 adults intelligence tests over a five-year period.
It suggested that the bigger the waistline, the lower the cognitive ability.
And a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who were either underweight or overweight as adults had lower scores on cognitive tests around age 61.
You’ve used recreational drugs
A 2012 study of more than 6,000 Brits born in 1958 found a link between high IQ in childhood and the use of illegal drugs in adulthood.
“In contrast to most studies on the association between childhood IQ and later health,” their findings suggest “a high childhood IQ may prompt the adoption of behaviors that are potentially harmful to health (i.e., excess alcohol consumption and drug use) in adulthood.”
- Amanda Edwards / Getty
While left-handedness used to be associated with criminality, more recent research associates it with “divergent thinking,” a form of creativity in which you come up with novel ideas from a prompt.
A 1995 paper found that left-handed males had higher scores on divergent thinking. As Maria Konnikova writes for The New Yorker, that means they were better at tasks like combining two common objects in creative ways to form a third and grouping lists of words into as many alternate categories as possible.
Maybe that’s why lefties are overrepresented in architecture and music.
Like left-handedness, being tall has been a heavily debated trait of smarter individuals. There are studies that back up this speculation.
As a Princeton study noted: “As early as age 3 – before schooling has had a chance to play a role – and throughout childhood, taller children perform significantly better on cognitive tests.”
- Jemal Countess/Getty
In a 2011 study published in the journal Intelligence, 400 psychology students took intelligence tests that measured abstract reasoning abilities and verbal intelligence.
Then they were asked to come up with captions for several New Yorker cartoons, which were reviewed by independent raters.
As predicted, smarter students were rated as funnier.