You’ve probably heard of IQ (intelligence quotient) tests. These assessments are specifically designed to measure aptitude and ability.
But intelligence isn’t all about IQ, and here’s why:
- IQ tests measure specific skills like reasoning, memory, and problem-solving. They can’t capture the broader picture of your capabilities overall.
- IQ tests don’t assess important traits like creativity or emotional skills.
- People from different backgrounds have varying levels of familiarity with test concepts and structure, so low scores may not always represent actual intellectual abilities.
- A 2016 research reviewTrusted Source suggests people with autism often have higher intelligence than standardized IQ tests indicate. This intelligence is simply imbalanced in ways that can negatively affect social interactions and task performance.
Many experts believe a single test can’t give a clear picture of intelligence, in part because there are multiple types of intelligence to consider.
One popular theory, introduced by psychologist and professor Howard Gardner, suggests nine different types of intelligence exist.
Wondering how intelligence shows up for you? Here’s a look at 11 signs of varying types of intelligence.
1. You’re empathetic
Empathy, commonly described as the ability to experience things from someone else’s perspective, is a key component of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand emotions and express them in healthy and productive ways.
Acknowledging your own emotions is an important first step; however, people with high emotional intelligence generally have a pretty good awareness of what others think and feel as well.
High empathy usually means you can sense when people are struggling, often through subtle signs in their body language or behavior. Empathy can also show up as a deeper level of consideration and acceptance of the varied experiences of others.
Like any skill, empathy develops when you flex it — so learning more about others and expressing your concern for them can foster even stronger emotional intelligence.
2. You value solitude
Need plenty of time to relax and recharge on your own? You might already recognize your introversion, but you may not know that finding fulfillment in your own company can also suggest intelligence.
According to a 2016 studyTrusted Source looking at the potential impact of friendship, population density, and intelligence on happiness, people with greater intelligence felt less satisfied with life when they spent more time socializing with friends.
Some might take this to mean intelligent people dislike other people in general or have few friends, but here’s another take: Both introversion and intelligence typically involve spending time in your own head, where you might reflect on problems, brainstorm new ideas, and mull over past experiences.
The more time you spend socializing, the less time you have for introspective thinking and pursuing your own interests and projects. So, you could easily have several close relationships and cherish the time you spend with loved ones — as long as you get enough time for yourself.
In short, you know exactly what works for you in terms of interaction (and if you guessed this self-awareness was another sign of intelligence, you’d be right).
3. You have a strong sense of self
Knowing what you need from your interactions is just one part of self-awareness.
Your personal sense of identity also relates to your perception of your:
- traits and abilities
- life values
- key life goals and desires
- other defining characteristics
A well-developed sense of self signals a high level of intelligence, since a strong self-identity typically means you:
- feel secure in who you are
- know where your skills lie
- have the confidence to make choices that reflect your beliefs
It can take time to discover these things about yourself. Even once you’ve established your identity for yourself, it can still take some effort to:
- feel comfortable expressing yourself freely
- setting (and honoring) your own boundaries
- choosing a path that aligns with your values or personal code
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4. You always want to know more
Perhaps simple explanations never satisfy you. You enjoy reading, art, and exploring other languages and cultures.
You ask thoughtful questions that get to the heart of an issue, spend hours delving into the mines of the internet to explore a new interest, or take things apart simply to see how they work.
Your curiosity might also show up as an interest in the lives and experiences of others. These traits, along with open-mindedness and a willingness to question your own beliefs, fall under the umbrella of openness to experience, a Big Five personality trait.
Curiosity, in all its forms, appears closely tied to intelligence.
In one 2016 study, researchers exploring potential factors that might impact openness looked at data following 5,672 people from birth to age 50. They found that children who had higher IQ scores at age 11 tended to show greater openness to experience at age 50.
When you want answers to your questions, you go looking for them. So, you continue learning throughout life — perhaps even more than you expected.
Instead of accepting “That’s just how it is” as an answer, you strive to find out why. You’re more likely to see the full picture of a given situation, complete with nuances and complex shades of gray, than a flat black-and-white photograph.
5. You observe and remember
Often praised for your powers of observation? Maybe you’re not exactly Sherlock Holmes, but noticing what happens around you can still suggest intelligence.
Working memory is your ability to store and work with specific pieces of information. According to a 2010 studyTrusted Source, it has a strong relationship with fluid intelligence.
In fact, the ability to notice and observe can relate to different types of intelligence:
- Good eye for patterns? Maybe your observations show up in your creative work. These are elements of spatial-visual intelligence.
- Great memory for things you read or hear? That’s your verbal-linguistic intelligence at work.
- A deep understanding of nature may even be a type of intelligence, according to Gardner. Naturalist intelligence might show up, for example, as an innate ability to recognize patterns or changes in a natural environment.
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