How to Look Smarter: What Works, What Doesn’t

Leah Bourne
eea2949a4ffad86a8f5ea91a4dad0e35 How to Look Smarter: What Works, What Doesnt

Photo Via Adam Katz Sinding/Le 21ème

People do a lot of things to appear smarter: They use big words, they wear glasses, they put on an “I’m so serious” expression, and—according to a growing amount of research on the topic—some of that stuff works, while some of it actually has the opposite effect.

The Wall Street Journal summed up the results of various studies on the topic in a recent piece called “How To Look Smarter,” concluding that oftentimes we aren’t helping ourselves one bit by trying give off a more intelligent impression.

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Some approaches the studies suggest project a higher IQ make sense, though they’re easier said than done: showing self-confidence, speaking clearly and not too fast, and listening to others, while throwing around ten-dollar words and talking too much don’t work.

Interestingly, some of the stereotypes around appearing intelligent also can have an impact: wearing eyeglasses, for instance, and using a middle initial (which in many people’s minds is linked to social status and a higher education).

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However, studies have shown that—positive first impressions aside—it’s pretty hard to fake appearing smarter than you are for very long. “The more you try, the more it’s going to be obvious” that you’re trying, Dr. Nora Murphy, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles told the paper.

In summary, here are the behaviors people use to look smart that don’t work and the ones that do. You’ll probably want to take notes.

Behaviors people use to try to look smart:

1. Putting on a serious facial expression
2. Holding hands and arms still.
3. Using big words and complex sentences.
4. Moving faster than others around them.

Behavior others look for when judging who’s smart:

1. Having a confident expression.
2. Being responsive in conversations, nodding and gesturing.
3. Speaking in a pleasant and expressive voice.
4. Using clear language.

Behaviors people use that actually make them look smart:

1. Having a confident expression.
2. Being responsive in conversations, nodding and gesturing.
3. Speaking in a pleasant and expressive voice.
4. Using clear language.

Head over to the Wall Street Journal for the full article, it’s pretty fascinating stuff that could change the way that you function at work!

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