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10 Signs You’re Smarter Than You Realize

Do you doubt yourself? Are you content with being alone? What about this one: Are you a chocolate lover? All can be signs of intelligence.

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You accept that there are plenty of things you don’t know

You may think that pretending you know everything, even when you don’t, makes you come across as smarter. But in reality, people who aren’t afraid to be self-critical tend to be the brainier ones. Intelligent people accept their own shortcomings and understand that there’s always more they could be learning. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology compared how students performed on a test to how they thought they did. Students took a test similar to the LSAT and then had to predict how many questions they got right. Many of the students with lower scores had vastly overestimated their scores, while the higher-scoring students tended to think they scored worse than they actually did. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something—you’re liable to learn a lot more.

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You’re constantly curious

Since knowing you have more to learn means you’re smart, wanting to learn more naturally does too. A study in the Journal of Individual Differences found that people who scored higher on IQ tests as children tended to be more curious and open to new ideas as adults. Intelligence and curiosity go hand-in-hand. Intelligent people tend to be inquisitive not only about everyday curiosities but also about “the big questions,” pondering philosophical topics like the meaning of life and the universe. (Answering these questions, though, is another story.) Try out these 12 jokes that will make you sound like a genius.

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You complete other people’s sentences

Don’t worry, it’s not as creepy as it sounds. If you can gauge what people mean to say, or how they’re feeling, that’s a sure sign you’re emotionally intelligent. Being empathetic and in tune with other people’s emotions allows you to see the world from others’ point of view. People who can relate to others and understand how they’re feeling tend to be open to meeting new people and experiencing new things, all of which has positive effects on intelligence. Watch out for the 20 words even smart people mispronounce.

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You have lots of self-control

Intelligent people tend to have strong self-control and can resist making impulsive decisions. A group of psychologists from Yale and other universities tested this in 2009 with a study published in Psychological Science. They tested how self-control relates to intelligence by giving participants intelligence tests and offering them reward money. The participants could choose to be paid immediately, or wait longer and be paid a higher amount. The people who chose to wait for the money tended to have the better scores on the test. If you have a strong tendency to weigh all of your options, and can resist making impulsive decisions, it might be time to embrace your inner genius.

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You’re open-minded

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, intelligent people tend to be willing to see things from other people’s perspectives rather than simply accepting one viewpoint as valid. They formulate their opinions after careful consideration of multiple viewpoints, rather than simply making snap judgments. They tend to be open to new concepts and ideas, which contributes to their intelligence. This doesn’t mean, however, that they are gullible or easily swayed from their own opinions. In fact, open-minded people are more likely to confidently stand by their own opinions, less likely to be manipulated. Find out the 20 phrases smart people never use.

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You love chocolate

Yes, there is a legitimate connection between brainpower and the goodness of chocolate. Compounds called flavanols, found in cocoa, can help boost cognitive performance. Researchers at the Universities of Rome and L’Aquila in Italy recently conducted a study about how eating chocolate effects brain functions like memory, attention, and processing speed. And it turned out that eating chocolate had positive effects on all of those things. Not only did eating chocolate immediately boost participants’ test scores, the study revealed that eating small amounts of chocolate daily boosted cognitive performance over a long period of time. Find out about 38 brain-boosting habits you’ll be grateful for when you’re 80.

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You procrastinate

Yes, you read that right! As much as leaving something till the last minute can make you feel dumb, studies show that it’s actually quite the opposite. If you procrastinate, it means that you take your time on things, rather than jumping to conclusions or choosing the easiest solution. Smart people also procrastinate because they choose to spend their time on tasks that they find more valuable, while postponing more trivial ones. Either way, procrastination is far from the monstrous time-waster people can sometimes make it out to be. Maybe it’s no surprise that things like doodling and daydreaming also signify intelligence.

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You can’t stand background noise

If you prefer to work in complete silence, you have that in common with Franz Kafka, Charles Darwin, and Anton Chekhov. These are only some of the brilliant minds who insisted on dead silence while they worked, or who complained about being unable to filter out background noise. You might think that smart people are the ones who are able to fully tune out the world, but studies suggest that this isn’t the case. The inability to tune out noises like talking, shuffling feet, chewing, or typing might actually be good news for your brain.

A 2015 study from Northwestern University assessed the problem-solving skills of 100 different people. The participants who claimed to have a harder time shutting out the “irrelevant” noises in the background came up with more innovative, creative solutions to the problems. The authors of the study concluded that people bothered by background noise are better able to focus on multiple stimuli at once, which translates into more creative thinking. So if background noise bothers you while you’re working, try your best to embrace it—it could be a sign that you’re a creative genius. 

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You can make connections between seemingly unrelated subjects

If you can distinguish patterns where others can’t, you probably have a more creative mind. What some see as “randomness” is actually a sign of a brilliant mind. “Most people can see patterns, but highly intelligent people see them more quickly, and they often see patterns in everything,” writes a gifted specialist on Quora. Connecting disparate things is also a sign of a highly conceptual mind; you’re open-minded and don’t look at things literally. Find out 41 grammar rules to sound smarter.

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You’re OK with your own company

If being by your lonesome doesn’t cause you to be overcome with boredom or FOMO, you’re in luck. People who are more content with being alone tend to be more intelligent, according to the British Journal of Psychology. And there’s more—if you talk to yourself, that’s a sign of genius too! Repeating things out loud can cement them better in your brain. And you thought it made you sound crazy. Next, here are more daily habits of people who are smarter than everyone else.

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.