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5 Bizarre Ways to Appear Smarter, Based on Science

Want to come across as brainy? Research offers several surprising suggestions.
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Look around you and it’s clear that geeks are in ascendance. The tech industry, with it’s army of engineers and eggheads, is the most dynamic and chattered about sector around, so-called "quants" are the new media superstars, and even something as old-school as farming is being radically disrupted by new, smarter ways of doing business.

Of course, the best way to ride this wave of brainiac innovation is to actually get yourself a great education and fill your mind with valuable knowledge. But here in the real world appearances matter too. And when everyone is looking for the smarts, it certainly can’t hurt your business to do everything in your power to come across as intellectually impressive.

Science can help. Psychologists have studied exactly what makes a person appear intelligent and some of the answers will definitely surprise you. Leave those heavy tomes and thick glasses at home; if you want to appear intelligent, try these research-backed strategies that were among a long list recently rounded up by PsyBlog.

Sleep In

The early bird may get the worm, but apparently the late riser gets the intellectual esteem. You might guess that it’s the ambitious folks who are up and at ‘em who are the most clever, but research says otherwise.

"One study examined the sleep habits of 20,745 adolescent Americans and found that on a weekday the 'very dull' went to bed at an average of 11:41 and woke up at 7:20. In contrast, the 'very bright' went to bed at 12:29 and got up at 7:52. At the weekend the differences were even more pronounced," reports PsyBlog. "It sounds like a joke, but it’s true, here’s the academic reference: Kanazawa and Perina (2009) and it’s described here."

More Modest, More Intelligent

Beauty certainly won’t hurt you in business, but the way you flaunt it just might impact others’ impressions of your brainpower. Showing some skin, you’ll be less than shocked to learn, is definitely not the best way to get others to focus on your intellectual horsepower.

"If you want others to think you’re smart, then don’t wear revealing clothes," says PsyBlog, which adds an understated description of the research that backs up this recommendation: "Studies do show that when people see exposed flesh, it makes them think about the body, rather than the mind."

Use Your Middle Initial

Wait, what? It seems beyond odd that having some random letter inserted between your first and last names would impact others’ opinions of your intellectual capabilities, but that’s what a study by two European psychologists found. (Though with names like Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg and Eric R. Igou, one suspects this research team definitely might have had a pro initial bias.)

Be Expressive

In your life you’ve no doubt noticed that how you say something often matters as much as what you say. Psychologists noticed this too and set about proving that this everyday insight holds up under rigorous scientific scrutiny. The resultant studies show that if you want to come across as smart, you need to be more expressive in your speech, varying the pitch and volume of your voice and adding emphasis where appropriate.

"Appearing smart is about seeming excited about what you’re saying, even if it’s complete nonsense," declares the PsyBlog post. Which seems a little bit of a discouraging sign about the limits of human judgement, but ties in nicely with the final and perhaps simplest tip.

Believe In Yourself

Worrying about your intelligence, according to psychologists, is one of the most surefire ways to lose yourself a few IQ points. So if you not only want to appear smarter, but also actually get smarter, believing in your ability to grow intellectually is key.

"Studies do indeed show that just believing that people can get smarter is enough to make them smarter (Aronson et al., 2001)," concludes the post, "so, don’t be held back by stereotypes, limiting beliefs or other mental stumbling blocks."









IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jun 5, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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