8 Personality Traits of Highly Intelligent People (Backed by Science)

Over on Quora, more than 100 people have answered the question “What are the common traits of highly intelligent people?”

Some users claim to know from personal experience; others are just taking an educated guess.

As it turns out, many users gave answers that researchers would agree with.

We pulled eight of the most intriguing Quora responses and explained the science behind them — and let’s just say that we feel a lot smarter now.

Here’s what we learned:

1. They’re highly adaptable.

Several Quora users noted that intelligent people are flexible and able to thrive in different settings. As Donna F Hammett writes, intelligent people adapt by “showing what can be done regardless of the complications or restrictions placed upon them.”

Recent psychological research supports this idea. Intelligence depends on being able to change your own behaviors in order to cope more effectively with your environment, or make changes to the environment you’re in.

2. They understand how much they don’t know.

The smartest folks are able to admit when they aren’t familiar with a particular concept. As Jim Winer writes, intelligent people “are not afraid to say: ‘I don’t know.’ If they don’t know it, they can learn it.”

Winer’s observation is backed up by a classic study by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, which found that the less intelligent you are, the more you overestimate your cognitive abilities.

In one experiment, for example, students who’d scored in the lowest quartile on a test adapted from the LSAT overestimated the number of questions they’d gotten right by nearly 50 percent. Meanwhile, those who’d scored in the top quartile slightly underestimated how many questions they’d gotten right.

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