The stereotype of an 'intelligent' person is proving more and more to be just that: a stereotype. What we're learning is that behaviours that were previously thought to be linked to lower intelligence, or completely unrelated, may in fact be the sign that you're one of the smart ones. Here are a few habits that have actually been backed by science:
1. Clever people swear more
If you think that profanity is a stupid person's vocabulary, you might be forced to eat your words. One study published in Language Sciences found evidence to suggest that fluency of swearing is actually linked to fluency of the English language. Not only could swearing actually mean you have a bigger vocabulary, you are also more articulate and emotionally resilient.
A University of Cambridge study found that people who swear are less likely to be associated with deception, making the more vulgar-mouthed of us more honest. When looking at the reason why people use certain taboo words, and how honest they are, those who use more 'bad' words were less likely to lie.
2. Addictions may be a sign of intelligence
In theory, you'd expect intelligent people to be less prone to alcohol or drug addiction, as they should be able to understand the potential consequences better. However, this is not the case. Research has suggested that those with higher intelligence have greater emotional instability, leading to a higher risk of mental health concerns.
A study published in 2011 found that children who tested with an IQ of around 109 were more likely to have a substance abuse problem later in life. Not only were they more likely to use drugs more frequently, but they also tended to start at a younger age. Another study published in the Review of General Psychology showed that more intelligent children in both the UK and USA consumed more alcohol later in life. In the UK specifically, they were also more likely to consume more illegal drugs.
However, Dr Dmitri Popelyuk an addictions psychiatrist says: "There are many reasons for addictions. Whatever your IQ level, if you have an issue with addictive behaviour you should seek help from a doctor so you can properly assesed as to wich treatment is most appropriate."
3. Low boredom threshold? A high IQ could be to blame
Research suggests that highly intelligent people get bored easily and spend more time thinking, behaviour that comes across as 'laziness'. A study by the Florida Gulf Coast University looked at a group of 'thinkers' and 'non-thinkers', studying their activity levels over the course of a week. Published in the Journal of Health Psychology, their results found that 'thinkers' were in fact less active than their 'non-thinker' counterparts.
This suggests that intelligent people are more at risk of falling prey to a sedentary lifestyle and all the health concerns that come with it.
4. Night owls have more brainpower
It seems that your intelligence may be more to blame for your sleep patterns than previously thought. According to the research 'Why Night Owls Are More Intelligent', those who enjoy a nocturnal lifestyle are more intelligent. The authors of the paper claim:
"Childhood IQ significantly increases nocturnal behavior in early adulthood. More intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be nocturnal adults who go to bed late and wake up late on both weekdays and weekends."
The theory behind the findings is that staying up later is an adaptation to modern life, showing an evolutionary advantage for the behaviour. Research by the University of Madrid also found that teenagers who showed this kind of behaviour had the kind of intelligence associated with higher paid jobs.
5. Messy might actually mean smart
If you're one of those people who cannot comprehend how others get their desks in such perfect order, then you may be smarter than you realise. Apparently, the reason more intelligent people are more messy is similar to the reason why they're lazier... they have too much going on in their head to worry about something as trivial as cleaning. Research published in Psychological Science found that a messy desk can help promote creativity and new ideas.
Disorganised people have been found to be obsessed with learning and reaching new insights, according to a researcher at Stanford University. Therefore, assuming it's a topic the person is interested in, they are far more concerned with learning than keeping everything in order.
Braininess and pedastals
Of course you don't need to be a brain surgeon to know we need to be careful about how we define "brainy". Neurosurgeons tend to be the most academically and technically skilled medical clinicians (that's how they are selected at medical school), however, they (perhaps very fortunately!) do not share the bad habits listed above.
A study reported on by the BBC found that neurosurgeons scored significantly higher than rocket scientists in semantic problem solving and displayed the fastest problem solving speed. However, the rocket folk performed better when it came to attention, and to mental manipulation tasks like rotating images of objects in one's head.
The researchers suggested this may be due to the, "fast-paced nature of neurosurgery... or it could be, albeit less likely, a product of training for rapid decision-making in time-critical situations."
"It is possible that both neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers are unnecessarily placed on a pedestal," the study reflected. "Other specialties might deserve to be on that pedestal, and future work should aim to determine the most deserving profession."