How can you spot a particularly smart person? Forget looking for a glasses-sporting, goodie-two-shoes with a neat desk and an elevated speaking style. What intelligence looks like in the real world and what it looks like in stereotypes are two totally different things.
When recent research has gone looking for correlations between high IQ or exceptional creativity and everyday characteristics, it has found surprising links that run in the face of our preconceptions, including these.
1. Your desk is a mess.
Got a towering stack of papers and six coffee mugs cluttering your desk? Don't let the haters tell you that the mess means you're lazy and unproductive. In fact, it could be a sign of your exceptional creativity. One study, for instance, found volunteers came up with more creative uses for a Ping Pong ball when they were working in a chaotic space rather than in a clean one.
"Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights," study author psychologist Kathleen Vohs commented. "Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe."
2. You swear like a sailor.
Your potty mouth might have annoyed your mom to no end, but little did she know all that swearing was actually a sign of verbal skill. "A pair of psychologists from two U.S. colleges conducted an experiment to see if knowing a variety of curse words meant you knew few proper words," says a piece in The Huffington Post. The conclusion? "Contrary to popular belief, those who were well-versed in swear words also had a more expansive vocabulary and a better grasp on language."
3. You sleep in.
We're constantly told that the early bird gets the worm, but if that's true, it's not because early risers are smarter. "Evidence has now been published that people who are more intelligent tend to go to bed later and get up later," claims PsyBlog.
"The 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," explains the post.
4. You're a little anxious.
Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It states that the incompetent are blissfully unaware of their shortcomings, while the best performers are most worried about their skills. Apparently, research shows that worry and smarts go together more generally too.
"If you worry a lot, fear not--your anxiety just might be a sign of high intelligence," reports Slate. "The idea has been around for a while: The adage that ignorance is bliss suggests the reverse, that knowledge involves anguish. Now it's starting to get some scientific validation." The article digs into the (sometimes contradictory) research on the subject before concluding, "Nobody is making a case for raging paranoia, but at a pinch, above-average unease just might be something to brag about."
5. You like a drink.
"Drawing on the results of the National Child Development Study, which tracked for 50 years all British babies born during one week in March 1958, [evolutionary psychologist Satoshi] Kanazawa found that kids who scored higher on IQ tests grew up to drink larger quantities of alcohol on a more regular basis than their less intelligent peers," reports New Republic. Other studies apparently back up the correlation.
6. You drink wine, particularly.
"A study that compared 1,800 Danish men's IQ scores to their drinking habits from the 1950s through 1990s found a strong correlation between high IQ in young adulthood and preference for wine over beer later in life, regardless of socioeconomic status," notes the same article. (I'm planning on popping the cork on a nice bottle to celebrate, personally.)
7. You experimented with drugs when young.
Like it or not, experiences with mind-altering substances have been found to correlate with higher intelligence. "More intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children," Business Insider notes, quoting one British study on the subject. Similar American studies have come to the same conclusion.
8. You're blond.
Forget the old stereotype (and lots and lots of old jokes): A study of nearly 10,000 Americans found that natural blonds actually have IQs slightly higher than their darker haired compatriots. The bad news? The difference was too small to be statistically significant.
"I don't think you can say with certainty that blondes are smarter than others, but you can definitely say they are not any dumber," commented Ohio State's Jay Zagorsky, who authored the study. But given past beliefs about blonds, "no worse and maybe a little better" is a big improvement.