People have varying levels of intelligence. Most people consider themselves to be intelligent, of course, and it can be very hard to get an accurate assessment of our own intelligence. After all, our thoughts usually sound clever in our own heads, don’t they?
But the less intelligent often have traits that betray them as unintelligent and can cause serious problems for themselves and others.
These are the five fundamental differences between intelligent and unintelligent people.
1. Unintelligent people blame others for their own mistakes
It’s unprofessional, and something an intelligent person tries not to do. If you consistently try to blame your mistakes off on others, you demonstrate to everyone that you aren't very clever and are certainly untrustworthy.
Unintelligent people don’t like taking responsibility for their mistakes. They prefer to wallow in self-pity or play the blame game.
Travis Bradberry, author of the bestseller "Emotional Intelligence 2.0" knows how telling this behaviour really is.
"It's never a good idea to cast blame. Be accountable. If you had any role — no matter how small — in whatever went wrong, own it," Bradbury advises. "The moment you start pointing the finger is the moment people start seeing you as someone who lacks accountability for his or her actions."
Intelligent people also know that every mistake is a chance to learn to do better next time. A neurological study conducted by Jason S. Moser of Michigan State University has shown that the brains of intelligent people actually react differently to mistakes.
2. Unintelligent people always have to be right
In a conflict situation, intelligent people more easily empathize with the other person and understand their arguments. They are also able to integrate these arguments into their own chain of thought and to reconsider their opinions accordingly.
A sure sign of intelligence is the ability to look at and understand things from a different point of view, and intelligent people are open minded towards new information and changing parameters.
Inintelligent people, on the other hand, will maintain their arguments forever and will not budge from their positions, regardless of any valid arguments brought against them. That also means they will not notice if the other person is more intelligent and competent and worthy of belief.
This overestimation is called the Dunning-Kruger effect., a cognitive bias that makes less competent people overestimate their own skills while underestimating the competence of others.
The term was coined in 1999 in a study by David Dunning and Justin Kruger. The psychologists had noticed in prior studies that in areas like reading comprehension, playing chess or driving a car, ignorance leads more often to confidence more than knowledge does.
At Cornell University they conducted more experiments on this effect and showed that less competent people don’t just overestimate their own skills, they also don’t recognize when someone else’s skills are superior.
Dunning writes: "If you're incompetent, you don't know that you’re incompetent. The skills you need to produce the right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is."
This does not mean that intelligent people always think everyone else is right. But they listen attentively and consider all the arguments before making their decisions.
3. Unintelligent people react to conflicts with anger and aggression
Even intelligent people can, of course, get really angry from time to time. But for less intelligent people this is the default reaction whenever things aren’t going their way. When they feel like they don’t have as much control over a situation as they would like, they tend to use anger and aggressive behaviour to bolster their position.
Researchers of the University of Michigan conducted a study with 600 participants with their parents and children, over the span of 22 years. They found a distinct correlation between aggressive behaviour and a lower IQ-scores.
The researchers wrote: "We hypothesized that low intelligence makes the learning of aggressive responses more likely at an early age, and this aggressive behaviour makes continued intellectual development more difficult."
4. Unintelligent people ignore the needs and feelings of other people
Intelligent people tend to be very good at empathizing with others. This makes it easy for them to understand another person’s point of view.
Russel James of the Texas Tech University conducted a representative study with thousands of Americans and found out that people with a higher IQ are more inclined to give without expecting anything in return. As it turns out, an intelligent person is better at assessing the needs of other people and also more likely to want to help them.
"People with higher cognitive ability are better able to understand and fulfil the needs of distant others."
People who are less intelligent have a hard time imagining that people could think differently than they do and would, therefore, disagree with them. Also, the concept of doing something for someone without expecting a favour in return is more foreign to them.
Everyone is selfish now and again; it’s completely normal and human. But it’s important that we keep the balance between the need to pursue our own goals and the need to consider other people’s feelings.
5. Unintelligent people think they are better than everyone else
Intelligent people try to motivate and help others. They do this because they are not afraid of being overshadowed. They have a healthy level of confidence and are intelligent enough to accurately assess their own competence.
Unintelligent people, on the other hand, tend to ridicule others in order to look better themselves. They believe themselves to be above everyone else and are quick to judge. Prejudice is not a sign of intelligence.
In a Canadian study published in "Psychological Science", two scientists of the Brock University of Ontario found that "people with low IQs tend to be more in favour of harsh punishments, more homophobic and more likely to be racist."
Many biologists believe that the human ability to cooperate has been instrumental in our overall development. That could mean that the most important signifier of intelligence is being good at working with others.