5 Genuine Signs of Intelligence No One Can Fake

Have you ever been impressed by someone’s intelligence, only to find out that it was all a hoax? We get it, first impressions are often deceiving and reality is often disappointing. Intelligence is a key trait of a great friend, partner or employee, but not everyone who puts on glasses and spouts big words really knows what they’re talking about. This might leave you wondering, how can you really tell if someone is intelligent?

Here are five genuine signs of intelligence that no-one can fake.

1) They ask curious and deep questions

Teacher asking her students a question at the elementary school

Do you know someone who never, ever stops asking questions? You know the type. The eternally curious one who isn’t satisfied until they get an answer to everything… and then still isn’t satisfied. Not only are the questions never ending, they get extremely deep and insightful, leaving others lost and exhausted. However, a desire to understand everything deeply is a key trait of an intelligent person. A British study tracked 5,672 individuals for fifty years and found that their childhood intelligence was strongly connected to their openness to experience in adulthood. So the next time you see someone with a curiosity that’s impossible to satisfy, remember that this is a reflection of their intelligence.

2) They can remember nearly anything

Do you know someone who never forgets anything? They know your birthday, they know where they left their phone and they know their upcoming appointments without checking. They may have more mental strengths than just their memory, as studies show that working memory is a key part of intelligence. The ability to hold many pieces of information in the mind allows someone to figure out patterns, think flexibly and focus on mental tasks. According to Professor Abraham Tannenbaum of Columbia University, the memory of a child is the best indicator of intellectual ability later in life, even better than an IQ test. So the next time you see someone with an impressive memory, remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg – their intelligence is probably even more impressive.

3) They handle unexpected challenges gracefully

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Do you know someone who never gets flustered when something unexpected happens? Even when their life gets turned upside down, they keep calm, go with the flow and solve any problems they encounter. Genuinely intelligent people can navigate life’s challenges easily because of their key traits. They are open-minded, so they consider alternative perspectives instead of being rigid about their response. They are creative, so they can come up with new solutions instead of sticking to familiar routines and habits.  They are mindful of their thoughts and feelings, so they accept uncertainty instead of dwelling on things that are out of their control. So the next time you see someone skilfully dealing with a major setback they’ve never prepared for, you can be sure they can intelligently handle obstacles every time.

4) They have excellent self-control

A businessman writes with a white chalk that is controlled by his hand, draw concept.

Do you know someone who never acts on impulse? No matter what temptations they encounter, they always think decisions through and stick to their best behavior. Research shows that intelligence is strongly linked to self-control. One study from the journal Psychological Science asked participants to choose between a small payout right now and a larger payout in the future. Those who had the self-control to wait for a larger payout scored higher on intelligence testing. The authors noted that the part of the brain responsible for self-control is also involved in integrating information, solving problems and achieving goals. So the next time you see someone who sticks to plans and goals instead of impulses, you can trust them to make intelligent decisions.

5) They are empathetic

Do you know someone who is always in touch with emotions? Whether it’s the emotions of themselves or those around them, they are sensitive to feelings and respond in healthy ways. A genuine interest in the needs and experiences of others is a key component of emotional intelligence. Those who are genuinely intelligent know that intelligence is not just about facts and figures, it’s about people as well. Studies show that emotional intelligence is one of the most significant qualities that make an effective leader. So the next time you see someone who cares and understands others, treat this as a sign of intelligence for other people.

There you have it, five genuine signs of intelligence that no-one can fake.

Do the points mentioned in the article remind you of anyone? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and share this article if you think it will help others. The studies and references used are listed in the description below.


Cherniss, C., Extein, M., Goleman, D., & Weissberg, R. P. (2006). Emotional intelligence: what does the research really indicate?. Educational Psychologist, 41(4), 239-245.

Fukuda, K., Vogel, E., Mayr, U., & Awh, E. (2010). Quantity, not quality: The relationship between fluid intelligence and working memory capacity. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17(5), 673-679.

Furnham, A., & Cheng, H. (2016). Childhood intelligence predicts adult trait openness. Journal of Individual Differences.

Shamosh, N. A., DeYoung, C. G., Green, A. E., Reis, D. L., Johnson, M. R., Conway, A. R., … & Gray, J. R. (2008). Individual differences in delay discounting: relation to intelligence, working memory, and anterior prefrontal cortex. Psychological Science, 19(9), 904-911.

Tannenbaum, A. (1992). Early signs of giftedness: Research and commentary. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 15(2), 104-133.

University of Pennsylvania. (2004). Authentic Happiness: Open-Mindedness. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletters/authentichappinesscoaching/open-mindedness 

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