Some Curious Facts About Intelligence

Intelligence isn't necessarily linked to academic skills. In fact, history is full of bad students who've made great contributions to society as well as outstanding ones who've achieved comparatively little.
Some Curious Facts About Intelligence
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 21 May, 2022

Intelligence is a fascinating phenomenon and one about which we still have a lot to learn. There are even intense controversies concerning its definition. This means there’s no single meaning for the concept. Indeed, science is yet to decipher all the enigmas surrounding this faculty.

Therefore, everything that we know about intelligence could be taken as a ‘transient truth’ or, at least, one that’s relative. Experts also don’t agree as to whether there’s really only one or several kinds of intelligence, nor what scope they have or to what extent they’re modified with the experiences of each individual.

In addition, there’s no agreement on how to measure intelligence. In fact, the well-known intelligence quotient (IQ) tests have as many supporters as detractors. Also, as we all know, at times, we can be both smart and dumb at the same time. As a matter of fact, most of us carry that ambiguity within us. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some curious facts about intelligence.

The difference between an intelligent man and a foolish one is that the former easily recovers from his failures, and the latter never manages to recover from his successes .”

-Sacha Guitry-

mind with mechanisms
The concept of intelligence is arbitrary, like the intelligence quotient (IQ).

Some curious facts about intelligence

For many years and in many places, attempts have been made to specify the features that define intelligence. Or rather, if specific characteristics exist that we could classify as intelligence. In this respect, there seems to be only one trait on which there’s complete agreement: curiosity.

Smart people are curious by nature. They need to understand and are eager to know more. In addition to this characteristic, it appears that intelligent people often also display the following traits:

  • They don’t share the tendencies of the majority.
  • They’re open-minded.
  • They possess creativity and adaptability.
  • They search for spaces of solitude. Furthermore, they have a tendency to be nocturnal.
  • They’re always asking questions.
  • They feel that they know very little.
  • They have multiple interests.

More information about intelligence

For a long time, there’s been a debate as to whether intelligence is a fixed faculty or not. In other words, are we born with a level of intelligence already defined, which will remain more or less stable forever?

There’s no definitive answer to this question. It seems most likely that there’s a limit to our intelligence defined by genetics. However, the most important thing is not what that level is, but how we enhance and use it.

It appears to be extremely likely that most people don’t develop all the intellectual abilities they innately possess. This isn’t the same as saying that ‘we only use a quarter of our brain’. In fact, it suggests that, as with many other faculties, we don’t manage to exercise and develop all the potential intellectual abilities we possess.

As a matter of fact, it’s now thought that intelligence is determined 60 percent by genetics and 40 percent by our environment. Consequently, the experiences we have and the environment in which we live determine almost half of the intelligence we exhibit.

man thinking
Most intelligence is determined by genetics.

Other curious facts about intelligence

It’s thought that the most intelligent person who ever lived was a man named William Sidis. His IQ was estimated to be between 250 and 300, a score that no one else has ever achieved.

However, in this case, as in that of so many ‘child prodigies’, it’s a mystery as to why he didn’t leave a more significant legacy behind. Indeed, as a rule, these people are extremely prominent in the academic field, but they rarely generate historical milestones.

There are also many false myths regarding intelligence. For example:

  • Left-handed people aren’t smarter than right-handed.
  • Whites aren’t smarter than other ethnicities.
  • Men aren’t smarter than women.
  • Listening to Mozart’s music doesn’t make us smarter.
  • Mind games don’t make us smarter. However, they can give us greater intellectual agility.

In addition, there’s data that we should all know and take into account:

  • Children whose parents talk to them, read to them and provide them with music tend to be more intelligent.
  • Dehydration reduces intellectual capacity.
  • People who base their diet on processed foods tend to do worse in intelligence tests.
  • The human brain grows until the age of 18. That’s why drug use is particularly risky during adolescence.

These are just some of the curious facts about intelligence. As we mentioned earlier, science still has a lot of investigating to do on the subject. In the meantime, perhaps we shouldn’t worry so much about being smarter, but about acting smarter. They’re not the same. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Egido, M. P. (2018). La psicologización de la educación: implicaciones pedagógicas de la inteligencia emocional y la psicología positiva. Educación XX1, 21(1), 303-320.
  • Gardner, H., Kornhaber, M., & Wake, W. (2000). Inteligencia: múltiples perspectivas. Revista Electrónica de LEEME, (25), 167-168.
  • Gistain, F. J. C., & Turet, M. S. (1990). La correlación herencia-ambiente en el desarrollo de la inteligencia: un estudio experimental. Revista de psicología general y aplicada: Revista de la Federación Española de Asociaciones de Psicología43(2), 187-192.
  • Marañón, R. C., & Andrés-Pueyo, A. (1999). El estudio de la inteligencia humana: recapitulación ante el cambio de milenio. Psicothema, 453-476.
  • Mora, J. A. (1991). La inteligencia como proceso básico. Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology7(1), 57-64.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.