Business Insider has an interesting graphic showing eight things smart people seem to have in common.
- You have a cat
- You're the oldest child
- You took music lessons
- You don't smoke
- You’re thin
- You've used recreational drugs
- You're left-handed
Eight is not quite enough for my taste, so let’s look at a few more indicators of intelligence:
9. You were breast-fed as a baby
Reuters points to a study involving 3,200 children in Britain and New Zealand that showed children who were breast-fed had IQs 6 to 7 points higher than children who were not breast-fed.
10. You didn’t have sex in high school
Several studies show that high schools students with higher IQs have less sexual activity than their less intelligent peers.
11. You're funny
A 2011 study from researchers at the University of New Mexico claims funny people are a bit smarter than your average person.
12. You don’t have many friends
Evolutionary psychologists reported in 2016 that people with high IQs are happier with fewer friends.
Should one actually put stock in these “indicators of intelligence”? I’m not sure they should. I believe this for a couple reasons.
First, there's good cause to believe that many of the studies coming out of academia are junk. I don’t mean to say that nobody is reading them; I mean it in the sense that the studies use flawed methodology and arrive at dubious conclusions.
More than a decade ago, John P. A. Ioannidis, a Professor of Medicine and of Health Research and Policy at Stanford, made this point in a paper provocatively titled, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.”
The problem has only gotten worse since Ioannidis’ paper was published. A relatively recent report found that a majority of scientific studies cannot be replicated. Per the Washington Post:
“Over the course of four years, 270 researchers attempted to reproduce the results of 100 experiments that had been published in three prestigious psychology journals.
It was awfully hard. They ultimately concluded that they’d succeeded just 39 times.
The failure rate surprised even the leaders of the project, who had guessed that perhaps half the results wouldn’t be reproduced.”
All of this gives credence to those who contend that the field of science is not progressing but regressing.
Second, even if scholars do get the science correct, media often distort the findings.
The headline “How Social Networks Can Both Help and Harm Our Kids" is not nearly as sexy as “Psychologist: Facebook Harmful to Kids." Or take this headline from a Washington Post article on a report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: “Social media may make kids more likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, study says.” The Post uses this headline even though the chairman of the center explicitly states in the article, “We’re not saying (social media) causes it.” The headline writer clearly mistakes correlation and causation.
So, if you’re a cat lover and got all excited because it reinforced your belief in your own intelligence, I’m sorry for ruining your day. That study consisted of 600 people, 11 percent of who identified as cat lovers—that’s 66 people, not a statistically significant number to draw a meaningful conclusion.
Plus, we all know dog lovers are smarter.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.