13 non-obvious signs that a man is really intelligent, according to science

The typical stereotypes around intelligence have elements of truth, but a truly brilliant man isn’t just a character from the Big Bang Theory. 

Science has deeper and sometimes quirky explanations about the less obvious signs that a guy is extremely intelligent.

By keeping an eye out for these signs, you can spot a man who is far ahead of the pack in terms of his intelligence level. 

Let’s take a look at what the latest scientific research has to say about non-obvious signs that a man is exceptionally intelligent. 

1) He embraces complexity and ambiguity

Intelligence isn’t just about quick solutions but also about grappling with complexity

Men who can contend with ambiguity tend to be much more intelligent. 

This isn’t only their ability to understand complex concepts but also to accept the many shades of gray and subjectivity that exist and to seek out and be open to that diversity of perspectives. 

As Tim Sullivan writes:

“It’s important to constantly learn and expose yourself to diverse points of view. But it’s work to do that. I mean, there’s a central joy in it, but it’s work.”

2) He’s able to use failure for growth and success 

Intelligence isn’t just about success; it’s also about resilience in the face of failure

Extremely smart men have a unique relationship to failure and setbacks. 

They do their best to learn from them and move on with renewed determination and knowledge. 

Rather than being a victim or taking failure as a sign that they should stop, it just feeds their fire.

As Rachel Hosie explains:

“People who are smarter than average are usually better at accepting their own failures and learning from them, a study on decision-making skills found.”

3) He’s humorous and witty even in humdrum situations 

Studies suggest that humor is directly linked to intelligence. 

Being funny is, of course, a partly subjective label. After all, comedians I find funny may differ significantly from comedians you find funny. 

But if a man is widely known as a funny and hilarious guy who is perceptive and witty, you can put good money on the fact that he likely has a surprisingly high IQ. 

“Class clowns rejoice! Research shows a strong connection between being funny and having high scores in both verbal intelligence and abstract reasoning,” explains Travis Bradberry. 

“It appears that your witty banter is the product of a sharp mind.”

4) He’s a creative problem solver and thinks out of the box

Highly curious men who think out of the box tend to be much smarter. 

They approach problems and questions with an insatiable explorer’s spirit: 

They don’t make up their mind or jump to conclusions but are open to truly learning something new and absorbing new concepts. 

As Marcel Schwantes says

“Harvard Business Review reports that people with a higher ‘curiosity quotient’ (CQ) are more inquisitive and generate more original ideas, and this ‘thinking style’ leads to higher levels of knowledge acquisition over time.”

5) He likes and needs his time alone

Not every brilliant guy is a loner, but most loners have a deeply smart streak. 

Although they may be perceived as standoffish or unapproachable, men who need their time alone tend to be highly intelligent. 

They use this time for introspection and forming and exploring deep concepts that they often find hard to communicate to those around them. 

As Crystal Raypole writes:

“According to a 2016 study 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.”

This ties directly into the next point. 

6) He’s quirky, eccentric and frequently misunderstood

Research indicates a correlation between unconventional thinking and intelligence. 

Men who are widely seen as a bit oversensitive and temperamental are often exceptionally smart. 

Their brains are simply taking in so many emotions and impressions that they get easily overwhelmed, leading them to sometimes be seen as quite quirky or odd.

As WebMD writes:

“Genius brains can experience ‘superstimulability.’ Some genius brains are highly sensitive to other people’s emotions. This can help relate to other people. But at times it can be overwhelming and tiring.”

7) He’s empathetic and able to engage in perspective-taking

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is closely intertwined with intellectual intelligence. 

Men who are more vulnerable and open to new experiences and ideas tend to be much smarter. 

Those who are able to engage in perspective-taking and walk in somebody else’s shoes are better able to consider matters from various points of view and engage at a more complex level. 

“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,” notes Raypole.

This relates to the next point: 

8) He’s adaptable and willing to change his mind

things emotionally intelligent people never say in an argument 13 non-obvious signs that a man is really intelligent, according to science

He doesn’t rush to snap judgments intellectually or ideologically.

Men who are extremely smart aren’t willing to take the easy answers or just believe what “everyone” believes. 

They are able and willing to shift their thinking patterns, adapt to new information, and change their perspectives based on evidence.

They seek out new perspectives and ideas, especially when they determine that “group think” has taken ahold of those around them. 

“I also recommend constantly looking out in the world to find places where diversity is in jeopardy,” advises Sullivan. 

“Where do people all seem to have the same belief or the same point of view?”

9) He tends to overthink things, overanalyze and worry

There’s more to neurosis than just a guy who over worries and gives off Woody Allen vibes. 

A man who worries too much and overthinks everything is displaying a classic sign of high intelligence. 

Indeed, extensive research supports the link between worrying and high intelligence. 

As Travis Bradberry notes:

“Psychiatrist Jeremy Coplan studied patients with anxiety disorders and found that the people with the worst symptoms had higher IQ scores than those with milder symptoms.”

Taking a look at some quirkier signs of high intelligence in a man:

10) His workspace is a bit messy

The next time we go to criticize our messy friend or partner for his messy workspace, we should think twice. 

Highly intelligent men tend to have a habit of leaving their items strewn around quite a bit. 

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s often accurate. 

As psychology writer Kristen Fischer notes:

“Not everyone with a high IQ will like their office to be a wreck, but repeated research has shown that people with high intelligence tend to have more cluttered spaces.”

11) He’s a southpaw

Left-handed guys tend to be smarter than righties. 

The research doesn’t show a massive advantage, but it does show numerical statistics of more divergent and out of the box thinking, which links up with intelligence. 

The next time you meet a southpaw, look for other signs of high intelligence and creativity in him and you just might find them. 

“One large study demonstrated that left-handedness is associated with divergent thinking, all the more so in males. This unique ability to combine two unrelated objects in a meaningful way is a sign of intelligence,” explains Travis Bradberry.

12) He’s the eldest sibling

Elder siblings tend to have a slight edge in terms of their intelligence level. 

If a man is an elder sibling there’s a chance he’ll be just a little bit brighter. 

This is often due to him getting the benefit of more time and attention from parents due to being their first child.

“A landmark study published in June 2007, showed that eldest children had a slight but significant edge in I.Q. — an average of three points over the closest sibling,” notes Benedict Carey in the New York Times.

13) He lost his virginity later in life

Men who have sex later in life tend to be smarter. 

The variety of reasons why this might be are still being studied, but the numbers and studies speak for themselves. 

That shy guy who didn’t lose his virginity until 28? He just might be a genius.

“Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that female and male adolescents with an IQ score below 70 or above 110 are more likely to be virgins,” explains Alyson Shontell.

The quest for knowledge

Seeking knowledge because you have to is one thing: university and having a research-based career are two examples. 

But true intelligence doesn’t just flourish in its appropriate place. It grows wild everywhere it can.  

Men who pursue knowledge and engage in intellectual pursuits out of genuine curiosity and passion rather than external rewards tend to showcase higher levels of intelligence.

When a guy is truly hungry for knowledge and learning it will show through in every area of his life, not just his job or his studies.

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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