10 unusual traits of people with an extremely high IQ

We all know that intelligent people can learn quickly, retain information, and solve complex equations. 

However, there are many unusual traits that people with high IQs have in common. 

Whether you’re wondering about your intelligence level or have an inkling that a loved one is secretly gifted, read on.

I’m sharing the 10 most unusual and surprising traits that intelligent people possess… 

1) Tendency to overthink

Intelligent people are often daydreamers.

They are the kids who get told off in school for not concentrating and the adults who gain a reputation for always being “in their own world.”

Science shows that daydreaming is not an easy thing to do. It is a complex cognitive process that requires your brain to imagine and construct entire scenarios or concepts.

This supports the findings of researcher Eric Klinger from the University of Minnesota. 

Through his research, Klinger found that compared to non-daydreamers, daydreamers are better at:

  • Problem-solving
  • Planning
  • Memory consolidation 

Daydreaming also has links to increased creativity. 

One study published in PNAS found that jumping from thought to thought increases alpha waves in the brain’s frontal cortex, improving performance on creative tasks.

2) Strong interest in unique topics

People with high IQs have a thirst for knowledge. They want to learn everything and anything and, thus, are interested in unusual topics.

Here is a simple way to demonstrate the difference between someone with an average IQ and someone with a high one…

When someone with an average IQ wants to know the answer to a question, they will Google it and quickly scroll through the results. As soon as they find a brief answer, they will stop there.


People with high IQs are known to spend hours researching something online. 

They will get lost in research papers and studies and often go down rabbit holes trying to get to the depth of the topic that has sparked their interest. 

This is caused by divergent thinking, a style of thinking that research has linked with intelligence. 

Divergent thinking is the ability to generate many possible solutions to a single problem. 

So they don’t just find one answer and settle with that. Instead, they look for every possible answer or solution.

It’s also what causes the following…

3) Tendency to ask weird questions

Brilliant people are the ones that ask the most questions in lectures and meetings. 

However, they also ask what others would perceive as strange questions. This is because they think of things that people with average IQs do not. 

Intelligent people have busy minds and intense curiosity. 

They want to fully understand the nuts and bolts of complex issues. So, they will ask seemingly stupid questions, seeking further information. 

You may wonder how they then process all that information.

Through the following unusual trait…

4) Talking to themselves

Remember I said that people with high IQs have busy minds?

Well, often, their minds get so full that they have to release those thoughts through words. 

How exactly?

Talking to themselves.

No, I don’t mean they converse with themselves like they would with a loved one.

Instead, they think out loud to organize their thoughts and ideas and gain clarity. 

While to the average person, talking to oneself can look like a sign of insanity, there is a method to their madness.

Through his research on self-talk, psychologist and researcher Gary Lupyan found that talking to yourself has many advantages, including:

  • Memory stimulation – In Lupyan’s experiment, participants who used self-talk when shopping for groceries experienced increased memory recall of where items are located. 
  • Concentration – Self-talk can help you stay focused on what you state out loud, similar to chanting mantras in meditation.
  • Mental clarity – Self-talk works in the same way as journaling. You can clear your mind and regulate your emotions by getting your thoughts out on paper or in the air.

5) Frequent swearing

Another unusual verbal-related trait of intelligent people is excessive cursing.

This trait is commonly associated with low-class, uneducated people.

However, research has found frequent swearing may actually be associated with high IQ.


Well, intelligent people typically have broader vocabularies than people with average IQs

With more words at their disposal, they are better and swifter at producing curse words. 

So it’s not that intelligent people like swearing more than everyone else. Instead, their increased language ability sometimes results in more frequent and colorful cursing. 

6) Staying up late

pic1689 10 unusual traits of people with an extremely high IQ

Successful people are known to be early risers, getting up at the crack of dawn to get a head start while the rest of the world is still fast asleep.

Therefore, you may assume that people with high IQs share the same habit.

Interestingly, this is not true.

Studies show that gifted people are more likely to be night owls, staying up until the early hours and sleeping all morning.

Why is this?

Researchers believe it is due to brain activity. 

People with high IQs are often highly creative thinkers. As intelligent people think up a new idea or solution, their brain activity increases, which can cause hyperactivity.

Of course, the more active the brain is, the harder it is to wind down and sleep. 

And as studies have found, intelligent people prefer later working times, which means they can stay in a hyperactive state until the early hours.

But while a smart person’s brain is super active, it doesn’t mean they physically are, which brings me to the next surprising trait…

7) Laziness

Yes, it’s true. Intelligent people spend so much energy thinking that they have none left for physical activity. 

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that smart people are less physically active than those with average IQs. 

They prefer mental stimulation (like brainstorming or puzzles) over physical exercise. So you’re more likely to find an intelligent person with their head in a book than lifting weights.

Another reason they are disinterested in fitness is because they don’t get bored as quickly as “normal people.”

While many people with average IQs hit the gym to “have something to do” or to “get out of their heads,” researchers found that intelligent people are happy to sit still thinking about things. 

8) Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli

Here’s a trait gifted and introverted people share – a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli.

Research has found that compared to kids with average IQs, many gifted children have heightened emotional and behavioral responses to:

  • Bright lights
  • Strong smells
  • Loud sounds

Therefore, like introverts and HSP, intelligent individuals prefer quieter and darker environments over loud and bright ones. 

But what is the reasoning behind this unusual trait?

One theory is that the high-processing mind of an intelligent person means they absorb more information from their surroundings. As a result, they are more aware of the stimuli around them.

Furthermore, other research suggests that gifted people can hear sound faster and louder than individuals with average IQs.

However, in some gifted people, their sensitivity to sensory stimuli could be due to Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which we’ll discuss next…

9) Personality disorders and mental illnesses

Yes, that’s right, science has discovered a genetic link between autism and intelligence.

A 2016 research review found many correlations between autism and high IQ, including:

  • Large brain size
  • Fast brain growth
  • Increased sensory and visual-spatial abilities (as explained earlier)
  • Increased attentional focus
  • More deliberative decision-making

Other research has found associations between intelligence and mental health disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder

It is believed this is due to something known as psychological overexcitability

The term, which Kazimierz Dąbrowski coined in his theory of positive disintegration (TPD), refers to enhanced and intensified mental activity. 

Brain scans have shown that highly gifted and intelligent people are more likely to have psychological overexcitability than those with average IQs.

However, while it is a sign of intelligence, this intensified mental activity can cause you to worry about minor things and overanalyze everything. If not regulated, this can lead to poor mental health and anxiety. 

10) A love for cats!

Here is one trait of people with super high IQs you would never have guessed… 

Smart people ADORE cats!

A 2017 study published in the Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin explored the personality differences between dog and cat people, and the results were fascinating. 

The researchers found that the participants who described themselves as cat people scored higher in intelligence. They also got high scores in self-reliance (independence) and deep thinking, two other traits of a high IQ.

Interestingly, dog people rated higher for extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, traits that are negatively associated with high IQ. 

I don’t know about you, but now I know this is a high IQ trait; it makes sense how Sheldon once had 25 cats in The Big Bang Theory!

Final thoughts

How many of these traits surprised you? Moreover, how many do you see in yourself?

While being a cat lover or a night owl is not enough evidence alone to suggest you’re a gifted being, it is certainly a possibility if you possess more than a few of these traits.

But remember, intelligence comes in many forms. So, if you cannot get your head around calculus or chemistry, this doesn’t mean you’re not smart.

Regardless of your IQ, you have a unique gift; you just have to uncover it!

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.