7 signs you have higher intellect than the average person, according to psychology

Ever wondered if you’re an undiscovered genius?

Or just a deluded dreamer?

We all occasionally have moments of brilliance, but it’s hard to pin down exactly where we sit on the intelligence scale.

Here’s the thing.

IQ tests don’t take into account experience or emotional intelligence.

And many people think traditional college assessments are just short-term memory tests. We’ve all been there, cramming in that last-minute revision! (that we’ve since totally forgotten).

Well, there might be a better way to gauge your brain power.

There’s been a ton of research done over the years that link certain behaviors to your level of intellect.

Let’s dive in and look at some telltale signs of hidden genius (backed up by psychology).

1) Cracking sense of humor

Wait. What?

It’s not what you expected at the top of this list, right?

You’re probably thinking how a fit of the giggles can possibly be connected to intellect.

What if I told you that Albert Einstein famously had a great sense of humor?

There’s actually plenty of research on the subject.

For example, this study found a strong association between humor and intelligence.

Psychologists argue that it takes both cognitive and emotional ability to understand humor and make great jokes (especially to time them perfectly).

People with rapier wit and hilarious delivery are probably smart in other areas too.

I’m talking about humor that stretches beyond tedious dad jokes and sarcastic comments.

Having the brain power to see an opportunity, craft the punchline, and deliver the blow, in just a few seconds, is no mean feat!

Being a great comedian has other benefits too.

Making people laugh makes you more attractive. People will naturally gravitate towards you.

Surrounding yourself with other great minds is a surefire way to boost your intelligence even further. It’s a positive feedback loop!

2) Bucketloads of creativity

P. Guilford was a psychologist who spent his life studying human intelligence.

In 1956 he invented the term ‘divergent production’.

In other words, creativity.

Thinking outside the box and coming up with multiple ideas and solutions. Exploring and venturing into the unknown.

He found a strong connection between overall intelligence and creativity, concluding that people with high IQs are more creative than those with lower IQs.

It makes perfect sense.

Whether you’re a writer staring at a blank page, a programmer designing software, or a musician composing a song, you need intelligence to create something from nothing.

The process of taking those first steps, making mistakes, and constantly changing direction (to progress), is a challenge.

If you have a creative spark, chances are, you’re smart!

3) Suffer from analysis paralysis

At first glance, this might seem counter-intuitive.

Fast decision-making is something we associate with clever people, right?


Just because someone makes quick decisions, doesn’t mean they’re intelligent.

Psychologists state that indecisiveness can be linked to anxiety and perfectionism.

While this might sound bad, it does have an upside. Making slower decisions and only pulling the trigger when you have absolute confidence generally results in wiser, more thought-out choices.

The key part is to understand when to wait and when to push through the paralysis.

Being trapped in a loop of indecision isn’t ideal either!

4) Overactive mind (and insomnia)

Overthinking at night 7 signs you have higher intellect than the average person, according to psychology

This one is interesting.

It suggests having a high IQ can sometimes be a disadvantage.

Psychologists conducted a survey of 3,715 Mensa members (with IQs greater than 130).

They found significantly higher rates of mood disorders, ADHD, and even autoimmune disease, when compared to national average numbers.

Ruth Karpinski suggests it’s due to highly intelligent people having an overreactive nervous system.

This can manifest itself in various ways. One problem could be struggling to fall asleep at night.

We’ve all been there.

After a particularly stressful day or maybe because we’ve been engrossed in a challenging problem-solving task.

Our minds just won’t turn off.

Constantly in fight or flight mode.

If this sounds familiar, it could be because you’re a highly intelligence individual (with an overactive mind).

5) Growth mindset (think differently)

Professor Carol Dweck was a psychologist at Standford University.

She came up with the idea of fixed and growth mindsets.

In a fixed mindset, someone believes their ability and skills are set in stone. This creates a situation where they’re trying to appear smart and afraid to ask dumb questions.

People with a growth mindset believe their intelligence can be developed through hard work and effort. They don’t mind looking dumb because they’re simply on a journey to get better (and everyone has to start somewhere).

How people react to failure says a lot about which mindset they possess (and begs the question, is there even such a thing as failure?)

Dweck concluded that pupils with a growth mindset were smarter.

They performed better in their studies and achieved more than their fixed-mindset friends.

6) Okay with change

The Collins Dictionary’s word of the year in 2022 was “permacrisis”.

It means an extended period of instability, and has been super relevant over the past few years.

It highlights the fact that change happens.

Life isn’t predictable.

And according to psychology, people who cope with change the best, are smarter than the average Joe.

It comes down to cognitive flexibility.

In other words, the ability to switch between different plans, goals, and patterns.

It helps us adapt in a changing landscape.

Rather than hit the panic button and flap around, smart people will reassess the situation and come up with a new plan.

It’s why many successful entrepreneurs have superhuman levels of cognitive flexibility.

7) Humble and self-aware

In 1999 psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger came up with the Dunning-Kruger effect.

It describes a cognitive bias where inexperienced people tend to overestimate their abilities and experienced people underestimate their abilities.

Whatever your profession, from janitor to open-heart surgeon, if you think you know it all, chances are, you don’t.

The idea is that you need enough experience and skill to appreciate there is still much more to learn.

Humility is a true sign of mastery.

Where arrogance is a big red flag.

Stay humble and apply that growth mindset if you want to see improvement!

Picture of Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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