11 Surprising Signs of Intelligence
5. You observe and remember
Often praised for your powers of observation? Maybe you’re not exactly Sherlock Holmes, but noticing what happens around you can still suggest intelligence.
Working memory is your ability to store and work with specific pieces of information. According to a 2010 studyTrusted Source, it has a strong relationship with fluid intelligence.
In fact, the ability to notice and observe can relate to different types of intelligence:
- Good eye for patterns? Maybe your observations show up in your creative work. These are elements of spatial-visual intelligence.
- Great memory for things you read or hear? That’s your verbal-linguistic intelligence at work.
- A deep understanding of nature may even be a type of intelligence, according to Gardner. Naturalist intelligence might show up, for example, as an innate ability to recognize patterns or changes in a natural environment.
6. You have good body memory
Intelligence can show up in a physical context, too.
Maybe you can’t explain how to get to a specific restaurant, but your body knows the way — even though you only walked to that part of town once, several years ago.
Or perhaps you pick up complicated dance steps after your instructor demonstrates them just once.
High bodily-kinesthetic intelligence can translate to better dexterity and coordination. You remember patterns of movement and you can also replicate them without much effort.
This can make you pretty good at sports and other physical activity, but it can also improve your skill with fine details.
7. You can handle the challenges life tosses at you
Life isn’t always simple, and some people find its complex twists and turns easier to face than others.
Adaptability is a key component of intelligence. It describes your ability to adjust to new situations or changing events. This trait can also connect to resilience, which is your ability to recover from adversity.
Maybe you stand up to uncertainty, ready to meet whatever comes your way head-on. Even when things don’t play out the way you hoped, you bounce back quickly, ready to keep trying.
These characteristics emphasize your intelligence — particularly when you weather adversity with a sense of humor. Research from 2017 links appreciation of dark humor to higher intelligence, while 2011 research links humor to creativity and intelligence.
8. You have a knack for keeping the peace
Strong interpersonal skills also indicate intelligence.
Take conflict resolution. Maybe you have a gift for peacemaking between disgruntled coworkers or quarreling friends. Even when you were younger, you found it easy to calm sibling battles or cheer up frustrated parents.
This skill has several components, all of which tie back to intelligence:
- You read the body language of others, which can offer the first clues to conflict.
- You use these signals to ask questions and listen empathically to get a full story from both sides.
- You encourage those involved to consider other perspectives.
- You help strategize potential solutions to the problem.
Getting along well with others may not automatically translate to academic genius; however, most would agree it’s a useful form of intelligence.
9. You tend to worry about things
Worrying, in basic terms, equates to preparing yourself for the possibility of something unpleasant. People who live with anxiety generally spend a lot of time worrying, even about things they recognize as pretty unlikely to happen.
The upside of all that worrying? It could suggest greater intelligence. Research from 2015 supports a link between verbal intelligence and a tendency to worry or ruminate.
A small 2011 studyTrusted Source also links anxiety to intelligence. Study authors explain that people with high IQs might either worry a lot or worry very little.
This might seem somewhat contradictory, but consider these possible explanations:
- Highly intelligent people may not spend much time stressing over things they know are unlikely to happen. They might also feel more secure in their ability to handle any challenges that do come up. As a result of this confidence, they worry less.
- On the other hand, highly intelligent people might spend more time worrying because they have extensive knowledge of potential threats and want to prepare for every possibility. This worry might involve brainstorming plans to handle the situation or thinking of ways to avoid trouble.
People tend to look at anxiety as a negative trait, but this finding emphasizes the essential function of anxiety: recognizing and responding to danger.
Still, unchecked anxiety absolutely can have a negative impact on relationships and overall well-being, so it’s best to talk with a therapist when you have a hard time managing rumination and worry by yourself.
10. You’re good at managing your emotions
Everyone deals with painful or unwanted emotions from time to time. That’s a normal part of life. The way you handle those emotions can say a lot about your emotional intelligence, though.
Generally speaking, people with high emotional intelligence can:
- recognize complex emotions
- understand how those emotions affect choices and behavior
- respond to those emotions productively
- exercise self-control to express feelings at appropriate times
- express feelings in safe and healthy ways
Like other aspects of emotional intelligence, emotional regulation skills develop with practice.
11. You have a pet
Pet ownership appears to have a positive impact on mental health for many people.
People with pets often:
- feel less lonely
- find it easier to manage stress
- experience fewer symptoms of depression
How, you might wonder, do those benefits relate to intelligence?
Let’s say you talk to your pet when you’re upset. Like talking to yourself, venting your frustration to a pet that always listens can help you process pain and distress, leading to an improved mood.
It’s a good way to manage emotions. And good emotional regulation, as noted above, is a key sign of emotional intelligence.
Does the type of pet you have matter?
In one 2021 study, researchers looking at 418 students found that the 66 participants who described themselves as cat people earned higher scores on measures of self-reliance, abstractedness, and general intelligence.
Those who considered themselves dog people earned higher scores for warmth, social boldness, and liveliness.
According to a 2019 study exploring different personality traits in dog people and cat people, dog lovers tend to score higher on the Big Five traits of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
Cat lovers scored higher on measures of openness and neuroticism. Openness, as you might recall, has been linked to intelligence.
This doesn’t necessarily mean people who choose canine companions are less intelligent. These findings simply offer some insight on how your unique abilities might guide your pet preference.
Certain traits associated with dog people, like extroversion, might even suggest higher interpersonal intelligence.