What constitutes brilliant minds? This is one of those questions that have most consistently baffled experts and laymen alike.
What is that elusive ‘X-Factor‘ that separates the extraordinary mind from the ordinary? Is it IQ? Creativity or sensitivity to one’s environment? Or some complex mixture of all of these factors?
While there is certainly no one-size-fits-all formula for brilliant minds, there are certainly several traits that many brilliant minds share in common. The following are just a few of those traits that have been proven to be commonly associated with a genius. After all, it’s as they say – great minds think alike.
1) Brilliant Minds Are More Curious.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that some of the rational thinkers on Earth have also been the most curious about the world around them. After all, it takes an incredible amount of inquisitiveness for them to question why an apple falls from a tree instead of rising up into the skies and being swallowed up by the ether. It would never even occur to most of us to question something as utterly fundamental as that. I mean, can you even imagine that conversation?
A little boy to teacher: Miss, may I ask you a question?
Teacher: Sure kid.
Little boy: Why do apples fall? Why can’t they just…you know, float away?
Teacher: …Go stand in the corner.
2) Brilliant Minds Are Socially Awkward.
At least during the early phases of their lives, they face a certain degree of social isolation. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because of any inherent social deficiencies. While a scholarly thinker, like anybody else, may have poor social skills, this is very far from being a universal trait, and as they grow older, they learn to adjust better with their environment.
The chief cause of social isolation among them, however, is the lack of peers who are on their level intellectually. This leads to a situation where they cannot find many friends who would be interested in talking about the things that interest them. I mean, how many 12-year-olds would be thrilled about being dragged into a conversation about nuclear fission and the merits of multiparty democracy over a two-party system? Not many, I am sure.
It can be expected, the normal topics of conversation of their peer group would bore them to no end. This leads to a situation where many geniuses are often more comfortable conversing with people nearly twice their age, than with their own classmates. However, as such a person grows up, they must learn to adapt to their environment and develop interests that would allow them to step out of their comfort zone and experience the world to the fullest.
3) Predilection To Addictive Substances
It has been proven time and again through research, intellects ‘search for evolutionary novelty’ – in other words, they seek out new experiences and ideas in order to analyze and understand them. They are open to new experiences than the average person might be. In some cases, this might lead to a desire to try out the socially ‘forbidden’ experiences and ideas, such as the intake of drugs and other intoxicants.
Counter-intuitively, exceptionally brilliant minds run a greater risk of becoming junkies than your average Joe, who would be more cautious in such a situation. A visit to the campus of any of the most prestigious universities in the country would confirm this hypothesis. The best and the brightest are also the most experimental in the narcotics department.
4) Socialism and Liberalism
Expanding on the last point about openness to new ideas, intellectual people are also the most likely to be socially liberal and politically socialist or communist. This is because, since the beginning of trade-based transactions in human history, markets have always been ruled by what is called the ‘market mechanism’.
Capitalism is just how we rolled until Marx came along, with his new ideas about state-controlled economies and classless societies. It made sense, historically, to abide by the prevalent rules of society and not get offed by the kangaroo courts. As such, in their search for novelty, the gifted are more likely to lean towards a more liberal and libertarian worldview, to a greater or lesser extent.
5) They are Night Owls
The phrase “burning the midnight oil” was taken a little too seriously by our scholarly thinkers. Research shows that they are more likely to be night-owls than early birds. This leads back to the question of evolutionary novelty. As humans have been creatures of the daylight since time immemorial, the gifted are irresistibly drawn towards the night – simply because it’s the road not taken by most others. Intellects experience a peak in energy levels after dark and are more likely to be natural insomniacs than the general population.
6) They might be in Monogamous Relationship
This is true mostly for men, as most women regardless of intellect, prefer monogamous relationships. But Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science posits the theory that men with higher IQs are more likely to prefer monogamous relationships to sexual promiscuity.
It is because historically, men have had a greater biological impetus to have multiple partners for greater reproductive success. Monogamy, in this context, is an evolutionary novelty for men, as it limits their opportunities to procreate – one of the most basic biological urges. So the next time someone teases you for not flirting with every girl within eyesight, just tell them you’re smarter than the rest!
7) They might be Atheist
While religious belief by no means precludes intelligence, and some of the bright people in history have also been the ones with the greatest faith, it is a statistical fact that gifted people are more likely to be atheists and agnostics than the general population. It could possibly be the result of the incessant curiosity and inquisitiveness of an intellectual person, which compels them to consistently question all systems of belief and to find the logical inconsistencies in matters of faith and religion.
It is important to note, however, that faith and spirituality should not be conflated in this context, as it is possible to be deeply spiritual without holding any religious beliefs and vice versa.
8) They can have Bizarre Hobbies
Can you guess what Einstein’s hobby was? Contrary to popular belief, he did not read research papers for fun, nor did he solve complex mathematical equations to relax after a hard day’s work. Instead, the greatest theoretical physicist of modern times simply loved to sail! He would also stick out his tongue during photo-shoots and engage in other such assorted activities of incredible weirdness that would make the average man think him quite bonkers. Hell, have you seen his hair? The man needed hair straighteners more than he needed relativity!
9) They are usually the Eldest Child
Research suggests that the oldest child of any couple has more than a slight advantage in the I.Q department. This may be simply because parents have more time and energy to spare for the intellectual development of the first child than for the subsequent children, who might get the short end of the stick when it comes to parental attention during the first few years of development. Of course, this is far from being the case for everyone and it is very possible for a younger sibling to outwit the older one at every turn!
10) They can deduce patterns
A genius can see patterns where most people see sheer randomness. One of the greatest hallmarks of brilliant minds is a heightened ability to see connections and patterns among seemingly unrelated objects and ideas. Some of the greatest discoveries in human history have been made through people deducing universal laws from isolated incidents – Newton’s discovery of the laws of gravity due to the falling of an apple being only one example. Finding generalities in particulars is how we make progress in almost any field of study or research.
All this being said, IQ is by no means a conclusive indicator of success or even happiness in life. Even an intellectual person might well waste all his potential and live a life of frustration and ignominy without proper guidance. While being a genius can certainly be an advantage in life, dedication and hard work are the only things that can help a person to reach their full potential. There are no short-cuts to success, after all!