Chances are, how smart and successful you think you are and how you actually are probably don’t exactly match up. And while some people might think they know more in certain areas than they actually do when you get right down to it, others probably are actually smarter than they think they are.
Dr. Katie Davis, PsyD, a clinical neuropsychologist, told INSIDER that the Wechsler Intelligence Test, which is the most common one that’s used to measure intelligence, breaks intelligence down into abstract reasoning and mechanical skills. So the definition of being smart or not isn’t exactly an easy, straightforward thing.
It’s kind of a complex topic. But these subtle signs might give you some clues that you’re pretty bright.
1. You’re creative.
If you’re a creative person, that actually could be an indication that you’re smarter than you might think. Part of being creative means being flexible and thinking in all kinds of different ways, and intelligence and executive functioning are both important for being successful, Davis said.
“I think executive functioning and intelligence are both highly important for creativity because part of executive functioning is thinking flexibly and being able to shift and think outside of the box and kind of change your patterns of thinking from one way to another way and I think that’s crucial for creativity as well as a high level of abstraction,” Davis explained.
“So I think, the whole idea that you don’t have to be a skilled mechanical thinker in order to be creative is also incorrect. I think that the kind of mechanics and the ability, the ability to regulate your thoughts and to focus your thoughts and to focus your attention, facilitate your creativity in many ways.
That said, there are tons of people who have terrible executive functioning who are quite creative. There are obviously people that break the mold all the time, but I think that these are common misconceptions. I think that intelligence and executive functioning are both critical for creativity.”
2. People don’t seem to always relate to you very well
If people don’t seem to always be able to relate to you very well, but you can’t figure out why it could actually be because you’re extremely smart. Author Laurie Endicott Thomas, MA, ELS told that it can be difficult for people who have different intelligence levels to find commonalities and relate well to one another.
“When you are a child, the people that you’re able to form real friendships with, the people you click with, the people on your wavelength, their IQ’s gonna be within 15 points of yours,” Thomas said. “So if you are an average person, by definition, the average IQ is 100. So if you’ve got an IQ of 100, that means that 68% of the population is gonna have an IQ within 15 points of yours. So this means that 68% of the population is gonna be in your friendship zone …
Now if you have an IQ of 145 or higher, the world is gonna be a different place for you because if you have an IQ of 145, only about 2% of the population is going to be within your friendship zone. And most people are not going to get you.”
3. You’re really great and successful at puzzles
If puzzles are something that comes easily to you and you’re able to tackle complicated or challenging puzzles with relative ease, you might actually be smarter than you think you are.
Davis said that solving puzzles, recognizing or decoding, for lack of a better word, sequences, noticing patterns, and more, are all good indicators that you can “think at a high level and complex level with verbal information and language-based information, or with verbal information.”
4. You can do moderately complicated math in your head
If you can do moderately complicated math in your head, without needing to take notes or anything similar, that too can be a sign that you’re quite smart.
Davis said that being able to do things like four-digit addition, subtraction needing regrouping or multiplication in which you have to carry the one, in your head are indicative that you have a good working memory, which she clarified is how well you can keep information in your head and “manipulate it” in a number of different ways, which is a key factor to be successful.
You’re able to not just remember pieces of information, but a process and do things with them to result in new information. And while it might not seem like a lot if this is a skill that comes quite easily to you, it might mean you’re pretty smart.
5. Things that you think are common knowledge … aren’t always
Thomas also said that sometimes, people who are really smart project their level of intelligence onto others with whom they interact to be successful. “If you that think something is so obvious that you don’t even have to think it through, it’s hard to remember that other people can’t see that kind of thing,” she explained. “So you will consistently overestimate other people’s intelligence and then you will be surprised, disappointed, and angry when they don’t meet up to your expectations.”
It’s not that you’re doing this sort of thing on purpose, but if it’s something that comes naturally to you, the idea that someone else might have to think about it for a minute to understand or just doesn’t know it at all can be frustrating and surprising.
6. You’re a quick thinker
If you can process information relatively quickly, that’s another sign that you’re pretty smart, Davis said. This skill is another mechanical skill that works with your abstract reasoning abilities to give a clearer picture of your overall intelligence.
7. You can’t communicate what you think
Some people are better at certain skills than they are at others and though this would certainly not be something you’d see as a positive thing if you struggle to communicate what you know in a way that shows how you actually understand it, that too can be a sign that you might actually be more successful than you think you are, Davis explained.
She said that some people have a “big discrepancy” between their verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, processing speed, and working memory skills and that for these folks, things can get frustrating.
“So if your abstract reasoning abilities are really good and you can think at a really high level, but your mechanical skills are weak, your ability to output what you know and to communicate what you know and to produce work that reflects what you know in a timely manner will be compromised and that’s really annoying for people,” Davis said.
“And again that happens in 25% of the population, so when we think about it, it’s one in four people, that’s a pretty normal occurrence like it’s a pretty average thing to happen, but it’s annoying and people kind of feel less successful because they feel their work is not reflective of what they know and how easy it is — they’re not outputting the information in a way that they think is consistent with how they understand it.”
Although people often think that intelligence testing is more for childhood, Davis said that it can be a good idea to have an idea of what your IQ is and which of the four domains you’re particularly strong or weak in even as an adult, regardless of how smart you might actually be. It can help you know more about the way you think and see the world, which can help you understand yourself better and do things in a way that’ll make you successful.