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12 Quirky Habits of People Who Are Smarter Than Everyone Else


You have a messy desk

Intelligence is difficult to define—psychologists have been arguing about it for years. According to Cornell professor Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, intelligence is the ability “to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and use knowledge to manipulate one’s environment.” You’d think someone who was intelligent would be organized and have everything in their workspace arranged neatly—but that’s not the case. In an experiment from the University of Minnesota, people in a messy setting came up with more creative ideas than those in a neat space. “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” says study author Kathleen Vohs, PhD. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.” Creativity is one of the traits that smarter people tend to possess—and so conversely, it may actually lead to messiness, adds Jonathan Wai, PhD, a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP). “I’d guess that it’s not messiness that helps creativity, but creativity which may create messiness,” he says. “Such people tend to get lost in thought focusing on a problem or issue, and cleanliness becomes of less importance than focusing on the problem at hand.”

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