Intelligence can be hard to measure, but science has linked these quirks to higher levels of learning, problem-solving, and creativity. How do you stack up?Intelligence is difficult to define—psychologists have been arguing about it for years.
You stay up late
In movies, the creative genius always works late into the wee hours of the night by candlelight—and perhaps this stereotype is rooted in fact. A study from the London School of Economics and Political Science found that people who tend to go to bed later have higher IQs. The study authors believe the root of why this is lies in our evolution—because nighttime was a more dangerous place, our ancestors who ventured into it instead of going to sleep needed to be more intelligent. Also, staying awake into the night was a new idea that was attractive to curious minds. Today, our varying circadian rhythms still may reflect this. “Perhaps [some smart people] stay up later because their internal clocks are simply different,” Dr. Wai says. “Or, perhaps they stay up later because they tend to be introverted, and like being up late at night without distractions to think and solve problems.” But if you are a night owl, remember to still get your seven to nine hours of sleep.
It’s commonly thought that swearing is a reflection of low education and intelligence—the theory that when people can’t think of the right adjective, they resort to slang, including curses. But a study by renowned expert in cursing Timothy Jay, PhD, and colleagues found that people who could come up with more curse words had a larger vocabulary in general. “Taboo or ‘swear word’ fluency is positively correlated with overall verbal fluency,” Dr. Jay told Medical Daily. “The more words you generated in one category meant the more words you generated in another category, orally and verbally.” Linguistic ability is one of the traits of people with higher intelligence possess, according to Dr. Wai, so it shouldn’t be surprising that smart people know more curses—even if they don’t use them all the time. “It’s part of your emotional intelligence to know how and when to use these words,
You like cold showers
You may have heard of the trend of taking cold showers or swimming in cold water to give your body an energizing jolt. Although there isn’t a ton of scientific info on this yet, the authors of one study from Finland, where winter swimming is common, note “adaptation to cold water was associated with a significant decrease in tension and fatigue, and an improvement in mood and memory.” These are all things that can boost brain function and productivity. In addition, stepping out of your comfort zone and getting up the courage to turn the knob down might inspire you for the rest of your day, according to a New York Times article on cold showers. So if you’ve joined the Polar Bear Club, your habit may be giving your brain a burst of energy every day.
The sound of chewing annoys you
Have you ever been really aggravated when dining with a loud chewer? Or wished the person next to you on the bus would stop smacking their gum? Well, it might just mean you’re smart. A study from Northwestern University found that people who tested high in creative cognition tended to have an inability to filter out irrelevant sensory information—they have “leaky sensory gating.” This means you’re taking it all in, sometimes to a fault. “Leaky sensory gating may help people integrate ideas that are outside of focus of attention, leading to creativity in the real world,” the study authors wrote. Dr. Wai surmises that this might connect to the same reason smarties tend to stay up late—they like to work without distraction. Interestingly, other studies have shown that chewing gum yourself improves intellectual performance.
Another habit of smart people is doodling—so if you enjoy this pastime, it may mean you’re intelligent, too. According to Sunni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, it’s a thinking tool that can affect the processing of information and problem-solving. This notion is backed up by scientific research—a study from the U.K. found that people were able to recall 29 per cent more information if they were doodling. Scribbling mindlessly has a benefit for memory, and also gives the brain a visual way to express concepts and emotions. Dr. Wai has a theory as to why: “Perhaps it’s not the actual act of doodling, but the act of taking a break of any kind that matters,” he says. “For example, the idea that your mind works unconsciously in the background even when you aren’t overtly focusing on a problem.