11 Surprising Signs of Intelligence
You’ve probably heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) tests. These assessments are specifically designed to measure aptitude and ability.
But intelligence isn’t all about IQ, and here’s why:
- IQ tests measure specific skills like reasoning, memory, and problem-solving. They can’t capture the broader picture of your capabilities overall.
- IQ tests don’t assess important traits like creativity or emotional skills.
- People from different backgrounds have varying levels of familiarity with test concepts and structure, so low scores may not always represent actual intellectual abilities.
- A 2021 research reviewTrusted Source suggests people with autism often have higher intelligence than standardized IQ tests indicate. This intelligence is simply imbalanced in ways that can negatively affect social interactions and task performance.
Different types of intelligence
ScientistsTrusted Source view intelligence as a person’s ability to learn from experience to adapt to, shape, or choose their environment. Various IQ tests and scales are used to measure it. However, some experts believe a single test can’t give a clear picture of intelligence. They argue that we need to consider not just one but multiple types of intelligence. One popular theory, introduced by psychologist and professor Howard Gardner, suggests eight different types of intelligence exist.
They are as follows:
|Intelligence type||Skills and abilities involved|
|linguistic||sensitivity to spoken and written language; ability to use language to achieve goals|
|logical or mathematical||ability to analyze logically, to do mathematical tasks, and investigate scientifically|
|spatial||awareness of an ability to use wide space and smaller patterns, as in geometry|
|bodily-kinesthetic||ability to use the whole body to create, perform, or solve problems|
|musical||refers to the skills of composing, performing, and appreciating music and musical patterns|
|interpersonal||ability to understand the intentions and desires of others, which helps a person work well with other people|
|intrapersonal||ability of a person to reflect on and understand themselves, including their feelings, motivations, and abilities|
|naturalist||recognition and classification of different species, weather patterns, and other natural phenomena|
However, there are some problems with this system. For one thing, it is difficult to assess or measure them and to separate them out from each other. For example, one could argue that classifying species is a scientific activity, and therefore a sign of logical intelligence.
Here are some other terms people sometimes use to describe intelligence:
- emotional intelligence, how a person responds to their own and others’s emotions
- sexual intelligence, awareness of the concepts and complexities of sexuality
- social intelligence, similar to Gardner’s interpersonal intelligence
What is your type of intelligence?
Approaches like that of Gardner may not be perfect, but they can help you reflect on your own strengths.
Below are 11 aptitudes or abilities to explore that might also help you understand which types of intelligence are strongest for you.
1. You’re empathetic
Empathy, commonly described as the ability to experience things from someone else’s perspective, is a key component of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand emotions and express them in healthy and productive ways.
Acknowledging your own emotions is an important first step; however, people with high emotional intelligence generally have a pretty good awareness of what others think and feel as well.
High empathy usually means you can sense when people are struggling, often through subtle signs in their body language or behavior. Empathy can also show up as a deeper level of consideration and acceptance of the varied experiences of others.
Like any skill, empathy develops when you flex it — so learning more about others and expressing your concern for them can foster even stronger emotional intelligence.
Here are some tips for improving emotional intelligence:
- learn how to manage your impulsive feelings and behaviors
- reflect on your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behaviors
- recognize your strengths and weaknesses and look for ways to boost your self-confidence
- practice taking the initiative and following through on commitments
- pay attention to the feelings, needs, and concerns of those around you
- observe and learn about the power dynamics in a group
- practice communicating clearly, asking others for feedback and advice
- in group situations, practice managing conflict rather than adding to it
These can actions contribute to stable relationships within a team and with other individuals. It can also help people reach their goals and improve their overall quality of life.
2. You value solitude
Need plenty of time to relax and recharge on your own? You might already recognize your introversion, but you may not know that finding fulfillment in your own company can also suggest intelligence.
According to a 2016 studyTrusted Source looking at the potential impact of friendship, population density, and intelligence on happiness, people with greater intelligence felt less satisfied with life when they spent more time socializing with friends.
Some might take this to mean intelligent people dislike other people in general or have few friends, but here’s another take: Both introversion and intelligence typically involve spending time in your own head, where you might reflect on problems, brainstorm new ideas, and mull over past experiences.
The more time you spend socializing, the less time you have for introspective thinking and pursuing your own interests and projects. So, you could easily have several close relationships and cherish the time you spend with loved ones — as long as you get enough time for yourself.
In short, you know exactly what works for you in terms of interaction (and if you guessed this self-awareness was another sign of intelligence, you’d be right).
3. You have a strong sense of self
Knowing what you need from your interactions is just one part of self-awareness.
Your personal sense of identity also relates to your perception of your:
- traits and abilities
- life values
- key life goals and desires
- other defining characteristics
A well-developed sense of self signals a high level of intelligence, since a strong self-identity typically means you:
- feel secure in who you are
- know where your skills lie
- have the confidence to make choices that reflect your beliefs
It can take time to discover these things about yourself. Even once you’ve established your identity for yourself, it can still take some effort to:
- feel comfortable expressing yourself freely
- setting (and honoring) your own boundaries
- choosing a path that aligns with your values or personal code
Not quite there yet? Don’t worry: We’ve got tips to help you kick off your own self-discovery journey.
4. You always want to know more
Perhaps simple explanations never satisfy you. You enjoy reading, art, and exploring other languages and cultures.
You ask thoughtful questions that get to the heart of an issue, spend hours delving into the mines of the internet to explore a new interest, or take things apart simply to see how they work.
Your curiosity might also show up as an interest in the lives and experiences of others. These traits, along with open-mindedness and a willingness to question your own beliefs, fall under the umbrella of openness to experience, a Big Five personality trait.
Curiosity, in all its forms, appears closely tied to intelligence.
In one 2016 study, researchers exploring potential factors that might impact openness looked at data following 5,672 people from birth to age 50. They found that children who had higher IQ scores at age 11 tended to show greater openness to experience at age 50.
When you want answers to your questions, you go looking for them. So, you continue learning throughout life — perhaps even more than you expected.
Instead of accepting “That’s just how it is” as an answer, you strive to find out why. You’re more likely to see the full picture of a given situation, complete with nuances and complex shades of gray, than a flat black-and-white photograph.
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