09 July 2013 11:00

How to appear more intelligent

A new study confirms that we all try to appear smarter than we are. Here’s why and how...


Classic books (© Associated Press)

Not all of us are born with Stephen Hawking’s brains, but a lot of us try to look like we were.

That’s the conclusion of one new study which found that one in five of us tries to appear more cultured, sophisticated and intellectual than we really are.

Not only do we like to appear more intelligent to friends and family, the Ask Jeeves study found, we even try to impress strangers on trains or on holiday with heavyweight works of fiction and a sophisticated taste in classical music.

And men are more prone to the pretence than women, apparently.

So if you’re wanting to impress others with your intellect, here are 10 simple ways to make yourself appear smarter.

Wearing glasses

Research suggests that people who wear glasses are considered smarter than those who don’t. A College of Optometrists study from 2011 found that a third of Brits believe that specs make a person look more professional while some 43% of the respondents believe wearers look more intelligent.

That might be because on TV and in films nerdier, more intellectual types are often portrayed as spec wearers.

And the latest study found that quite a few of us are prepared to wear glasses with clear lenses - the kind that make no difference to our eyesight - in an attempt to appear more intelligent.

On Bing: cool sunglasses for summer

Man in comedy glasses (© JORGE SILVA-Newscom-RTR)

Spectacle wearers can appear cleverer - though not in every case!

Talking politics

Are you a dinner party politics bore? Let’s rephrase that. Do you delight in the cut and thrust of intelligent issue-based debate?

If so, you may appear cleverer than those who sit in silence, refusing to take part for fear of offending anyone or displaying a less-than-thorough knowledge of the facts. The latest research found that talking politics is one thing many of us do to appear intellectual and worldly-wise.

Reading the classics

Or at least pretending to read the classics. Bringing out weighty intellectual tomes on the train or on the beach is one thing many of us do to appear intelligent, according to the latest study.

But owning great works of literature is a long way from reading great works of literature. According to a 2011 study from Lindeman's wine, the average Briton owns 80 books which they haven’t read but are there only to make them look more intellectual. Nearly three-quarters of our bookcase space is taken up with the likes of Shakespeare, Austen and Hardy, but in suspiciously crease-free covers. The same study found that 57% of us make sure the volumes most conspicuously on show are the literary classics, even if we haven’t read a word of them.

On Bing: classic literature you should read

Wine tasting (© ERIC GAILLARD-Newscom-RTR)

Knowing your wine is one way to appear sophisticated

Repeating jokes

Half the point of a good joke is to repeat it. But the clever few repeat jokes while remaining coy about their origins. Such an economy with the truth makes everybody think the rib-tickler is their own invention, rather than one they got off the internet.

Why claim a joke as your own when it’s not? Well, because being funny equates to being clever. Psychologists believe that women often express a preference for a good sense of humour in their dates because humour is a clue to intellect. It takes brains to make people laugh.

Pretending to be a connoisseur

Do you enjoy an unpretentious little red, or a lively white? If you don’t know what on earth we’re talking about you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to show off your sophisticated side.

Knowing about wine is a sure-fire sign that you enjoy the finer things in life, and the next best thing to knowing about wine is pretending to know about wine. A quick internet search can educate you on the difference between a claret and a Beaujolais. If you think that’s cheating, just remember that a recent experiment by Californian wine maker Robert Hodgson, and published in the Journal of Wine Economics, discovered that even so-called experts know surprisingly little about wine. Again and again some of the biggest names in wine tasting rated the same wines differently when they blind tasted them a few minutes apart.

So don’t go for all that sniffing, swilling and spitting. Just knowing a little about the grapes and looking like you can make an informed choice in restaurants (rather than just going for the second cheapest like everyone else) will mark you out as an educated, sophisticated drinker.

On Bing: how to choose wine

Jazz band (© Joel Ryan-Invision-AP)

Jazz - the music of the intellectual

Using social media

In the latest study the researchers found that more and more of us are using social media to spread the notion that our pants are of the ‘smarty’ variety.

Most obviously, we go to galleries, exhibitions or theatre productions and then mention it 'in passing' on Facebook. Similarly, we’re quick to tag photos of ourselves that have been taken in high brow locations.

What we choose to share marks us out as intellectual material - or not - as well. Retweeting something smart from a scientist screams brains. That funny picture of a kitten? Not so much.

Liking jazz

To some people, jazz music is an impenetrable wall of barely related notes played by people who take it all too seriously.

If that’s you, change your attitude quick. A liking for jazz marks you out as a sophisticated music lover, a man who can discern beauty where lesser men can’t. Stick on a jazz record (preferably vinyl) and there’s no way anyone will think that 80% of the books on your bookshelves have never been read.

On Bing: the 10 best jazz records

Adopting nerdy hobbies

Some people think people who know a lot about Star Wars are just nerds. But underneath the contempt they also think they must be quite clever, because nerds always are.

One way to seem instantly cleverer, then, is to know a lot about Star Wars, or at least pretend to. Talk about its Freudian subtext or some such. It works with all classic sci-fi, as long as you can say something more intellectual sounding than 'the special effects are awesome, man'.

It doesn’t have to be sci-fi. Enjoy cricket more than football and swot up on the Duckworth-Lewis method. Throw away Trivial Pursuit and start playing chess (even better, start playing chess on your computer during your lunch break - within days you’ll be considered the office intellectual). Take your holidays in Italy rather than Spain.

And there you have it. Adopt all or any of these traits and you’ll immediately appear cleverer and more sophisticated to great swathes of the population. Whether your new-found reputation will prove in any way beneficial is another matter altogether.

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