PEOPLE

What 'Smart' Looks Like

A roundup of recent research provides some insight into the visual cues people rely on to gauge a person's intelligence.
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Like beauty, intelligence is largely in the eye of the beholder, according to recent studies. 

A new post on The Atlantic provides a well-sourced look at the actions and physical features that many people associate with smarts. Interestingly, a lot of these visual cues are not all that hard to adopt--if you're looking to add a few points to your percieved I.Q. 

To start, the old four-eyes stereotype prevails. Wearing glasses does make an individual appear smarter, according to 43 percent of those surveyed in a study by the College of Optometrists in the U.K.

Here's one for New Yorkers. When taking a stroll with a new business contact, try to avoid walking at a breakneck pace. "Subjects in one study rated a person moving faster or slower than 'normal human walking speed' as less competent and intelligent," according to The Atlantic.

The next is a bit counterintuitive. A grandiose vocabulary is a turn-off, suggested a 2006 study called "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity." The report found that simple communication sounds smarter. 

Lastly, there are some superficial traits that you either have or you don't. European researchers found that test subjects cited facial characteristics such as narrow faces, long noses, and thin chins as intelligent-looking.

Of course, assessing someone's intelligence level based on how they look is a flawed strategy. The same facial feature study asked participants to evaluate a person's intelligence just by looking at a photograph. After comparing these responses to the photographed person's IQ, researchers concluded that there was no relationship between perceived intelligence and actual IQ for women. However, this was not the case with men. According to the study, participants were able to accurately guess a man's intelligence based on his looks. 

Take that finding, however, with a heap of salt. The researchers readily admit that their study did not attempt to account for how cultural differences might change the results--all of the subjects came from the University of Prague. 

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Aug 18, 2014

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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