This video by John Oliver says it best. Over the years, more and more outlandish “facts” are being shared unironically simply because it has the phrase “Studies Show” in the headline.
The sad fact is that while the studies may have in fact been conducted, between the questionable credibility of certain studies and the media’s role in jazzing up the results into clickable headlines, these “facts” may just be very far from what they appear.
One contentious topic? I’m sure you’ve seen the articles on “Science Says You’re An Intelligent Person If You Are X”.
More and more scientists are trying to tap into the secrets for intelligence in our society. Correlation does not necessarily equal to causation but these studies have spotted some trends that seem statistically significant enough to warrant some published studies.
We’ve looked at some of them, and according to headlines, here are 10 easy ways to pass snap judgement about someone’s intelligence. Or, if you’re looking to be seen as intelligent, it’s not too hard to fake being one or all of these 10.
1) Night owls who burn the midnight oil.
It seems that “early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” was wrong all along because one study shows that staying up late is an indication that someone is more intelligent and creative. And it’s not the only study to have come out with those findings.
The brave souls who dare to deviate from the normal sleep schedule are apparently trendsetters of evolutionary proportions.
The study was apparently supported by research that shows that individuals who create fresh “evolutionary patterns” showcase how progressive they are. In this case, the term progressive refers to their intelligence.
With the existence of so many 24-hour eateries in Malaysia, perhaps this research does say some good things about our nation.
But night owls, don’t feel to smug yet. Other studies have suggested that morning people tend to be happier. Fair exchange?
2) Potty mouths who know a lot more cuss words than just f*ck.
Your mama was wrong; people who swear do not have a ‘limited vocabulary’. Instead, through this study it was found that people who know more curse words tend to have a higher level of intelligence compared to their politically correct peers.
But the methodology of this test seems to leave something to be desired. Participants were given a certain amount of time to rapid-fire name all of the taboo and swear words that they know.
It makes sense that a healthy swear word vocabulary might just be indicative of the breadth of one’s vocabulary in general. If someone knows a lot of words in general, it stands to reason that they might also know more swear words than those with a more limited vocab.
3) Owners of messy desks and rooms.
Does your coworker take 5 more minutes than necessary to locate a file? Chances are, this means that they are intelligent because according to psychologist Kathleen Vohs, “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: creativity.”
According to the research, people with neater desks tended to give more to charity, but messier desks apparently showcased that they were more inclined to try out new things.
“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” Kathleen concluded.
We’re not going to complain about another excuse to not clean up.
4) Avoiders of exercise and physical activities.
There might actually be “science” behind every high-school movie from the 90’s because it’s been found that people who exercise less tend to be more intelligent. The overused stereotype of jocks being muscle-bound idiots might not be completely off.
According to this study, “intelligent people live a more sedentary lifestyle, as they rarely become bored and spend more time lost in their own thoughts”.
The study goes on to say that people who are more “physically active” tend to be that way because they can’t otherwise keep their brains occupied. Meanwhile intelligent people do not find it as difficult to entertain themselves at home.
So if you are reading this article while lounging on the couch at home, congratulations. You’re probably intelligent.
5) Good drum players.
One particular study measured intelligence in correlation with drumming ability. Participants of this test were actually given a 60-question intelligence test after they were tested for their drumming skills.
Conclusion: the higher the drummer’s rhythm score, the better they did on the test.
According to Professor Ullen (one of the researchers of the test), “The rhythmic accuracy in brain activity that is observed when a person maintains a steady beat is also important to the problem-solving capacities measured with the intelligence tests.”
Not only that, but apparently exposure to rhythmic music can actually make other people smarter. A University of Washington professor found that his “students got higher scores after undergoing rhythmic light and sound therapy.”
Who are constantly exposed to rhythmic music? Drummers.
So it seems that not only are drummers smarter, they actually continue to heighten their intelligence as they continue to drum.
Now that is an interesting cycle.
6) Possessors of big butts (sorry, not really).
While you can’t lie about liking big butts, you can lie about the research behind it.
An article went viral in early 2016 about bigger booties contributing to a smarter, healthier person. Too bad Snopes.com has thoroughly debunked that article. It seems that the headline was taken from a study that neither correlates butts with intelligence, or even having a healthier body.
According to Snopes.com, “A 2010 review undertaken by Oxford University suggested that gluteofemoral fat stores conferred more health benefits than visceral fat, and 2007 research similarly examined waist-to-hip ratio (not “big butts”).
That’s right. It was a study about the types of fat stored in the human body. We’re not quite sure where the ‘intelligence’ portion came up either.
7) Cat lovers.
The study in question was more focused on the differences in personality between cat and dog people, but it seems that cat lovers scored higher on intelligence tests than dog lovers.
It’s certainly something that could spark discussion, but there’s still no clear reason why.
Other interesting nuggets from that particular study? Dog lovers in the study tended to be more extroverted, energetic and outgoing but also tended to follow rules closely.
In comparison, cat lovers were more introverted, more open-minded and more sensitive than dog lovers. They also found that cat lovers were more expedient, meaning they weren’t adverse to bending rules if they thought it necessary or practical.
8) Cigarette smokers (or maybe not).
The studies that try to correlate cigarettes with intelligence can sometimes feel like a similar conundrum with the “Are eggs healthy or not?” question. Over the years, eggs have gone from being a healthy food, to a food too high in cholesterol, to now a food full of good cholesterol—all within the span of a lifetime.
A similar trend can be seen with smoking.
The first result in Google tells us that yes, it is true for Americans, but false for Brits. Then, another study in Panum Institute in Copenhagen shows that smokers generally have a higher IQ and that part of the reason smokers find it so hard to quit is that they have to get used to their brains functioning at a lower level than they’re used to when smoking .
However, another study as reported in Reuters showcases a negative correlation instead between the number of cigarettes smoked to IQ.
It seems that a definitive answer will have to wait for this one.
9) Just a*sholes.
Specifically, a sarcastic as*hole. A study showed that people who are more sarcastic tended to be more socially intelligent. This is apparently an evolutionary trait.
“Dr. Rankin and many others believe sarcasm was created and interpreted in the parahippocampal gyrus region of the brain, which is where all of our social intelligence is rooted.”
And it’s not just the people who are being sarcastic who are more intelligent. There was even another study that found that people listening to sarcasm performed better at analytic and creative tasks.
So, the next time you have a sarcastic comment on the tip of your tongue, don’t hold back. It’s not just good for you, but may help the others around you be better. Who cares about hurt feelings?
10) Areligious or non-religious folks.
A meta-analysis of a total of 63 studies over eight decades has found that atheists do better on intelligence tests compared to religious people.
It seems that non-religious people tended to seek more control over their lives and as a result made them seek more education and higher employment when available.
“Intelligent people typically spend more time in school—a form of self-regulation (changing behaviour to achieve a goal) that may yield long-term benefits.”
According to the study again, “one of the functional interpretations was that intelligence and religiosity allow the individual to exercise better self-regulation, and that intelligence leads to lower religiosity because it obviates the need for the self-regulatory function of religion”.