What do smart people have in common? Scientists have tried to find this out and have found many examples, from having a cat to smoking cannabis. Here are some spies of an out of the ordinary intelligence (ah, but know that correlation does not imply causality: getting a kitten will not necessarily make you smarter).
1 YOU ARE THE FIRST CHILD
It is not a saying, nor a pure claim from older brothers. The first children have an average degree of intelligence 2.3 points higher than the younger siblings. According to a large study by the University of Oslo, carried out on the IQ of 250,000 males between 18 and 20 years of age. The reasons are not genetic, but educational: what makes the difference is the investment of time and attention dedicated by parents to their older children. For this reason, second or third children born at a great distance from siblings, or after siblings who have died, have the same intellectual advantage.
2 YOU ARE TALL
“Half beauty height” but not only: in adulthood, taller people have better salaries on average. The reason? According to a 2006 Princeton University study, taller children at age 3 perform better than shorter ones. Tall children will have a better chance of becoming tall adults with a bright future in the company.
3 YOU HAVE A CAT
A study on the personality traits of dog and cat owners released in 2014 by Denise Guastello, a psychologist at Carroll University (USA), argues that those who have a dog are on average more energetic and sociable, while those who have a cat tend to be more introverted, sensitive, nonconformist and intelligent. This is likely because introverted people engage in more intellectual hobbies.
4 YOU ARE LEFT-HANDER
Greater creativity, willingness to think outside the box, speed of information processing: these are just some of the neurological advantages attributed to left-handers, who generally enjoy a better interconnection between cerebral hemispheres. A feature that also makes them excel in speaking skills and in tasks that require visual-spatial coordination, such as some sports.
5 YOU ARE ANXIOUS
If there is always something that worries you, console yourself: you probably have above average verbal intelligence and are more inclined to concentrate on an assigned task, avoiding external distractions. This is demonstrated by a study by Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, and an experiment by the Israeli research center Herzliya carried out in 2012. For those who are always on “who goes there”, at least one satisfaction.
6 YOU ARE THIN
A 2006 French study of 2,200 adults over 5 years suggests that too large a waistline may affect cognitive abilities. In intelligence tests, volunteers with a BMI of 20 or less, thus in good shape were able to recall 56% of the terms in a vocabulary test; obese subjects, only 44%.
7 YOU DO NOT SMOKE
Smoking is foolish: common sense and a 2010 Israeli study of 20,000 military recruits say so. In the study, young men who smoked a pack of cigarettes or more per day scored 7.5 points lower than that of nonsmokers. However, it should be noted that mental discomfort and lower IQ during childhood and adolescence are linked to a greater propensity to smoke, a fact that may have influenced the data.
8 YOU STUDIED MUSIC
Learning to play an instrument from an early age improves cognitive skills that are also totally different from those involved during this type of exercise. A 2011 Canadian study of 48 children between the ages of 4 and 6 would show that the study of music can improve verbal skills in this age group. But the issue is debated (and it is necessary to clarify what is meant by intelligence). Two researchers from Harvard University in 2013 showed that the famous “Mozart effect” does not exist.
9 YOU HAVE BEEN BREASTFEED
Several studies, including one recently published by Lancet Global Health, which we told you about here, report a link between breast milk and the baby’s intellectual development. The benefit could be linked to the fatty acids present in milk or its beneficial role on the immune system, but the topic is controversial. Mothers living in rich countries breastfeed more often and for longer. It may therefore be the best life and education opportunities that affect children’s IQ.
10 YOU HAVE USED RECREATIONAL DRUGS
To avoid misunderstandings: here we are not saying that consuming drugs is a symptom of intelligence. But a 2012 study conducted among 6,000 British subjects born in 1958 showed a link between high childhood IQ and greater predisposition to behave harmfully to health in adulthood, such as the consumption of drugs or alcohol in large quantities.
We have given you here some ideas on possible “spies” with marked, and different, cognitive skills. But it should be noted that the studies indicated do not highlight cause-effect relationships, but simple correlations between the phenomena studied and the intellectual capacities found.
The correlations found, then, tell a prevalence, and certainly not the totality of the cases studied. To be clear, you could be short, raised on formula milk, right-handed and younger siblings, and still be in contention for a Nobel Prize, and you wouldn’t contradict the research listed so far.