12 Proven Ways to Appear Smarter Than You Really Are

One of my favorite sayings is, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to speak on a subject even if you are stretching. But there are methods to make yourself look and sound more intelligent. We’ve rounded up 12 top tips you can easily put into action, even if you don’t feel smarter than a fifth-grader.

1. Brush off your middle initial

Blank name tag.
Billion Photos / Shutterstock.com

A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2014 found that the use of a middle initial can make you seem more intellectual.

While the study didn’t specifically address the use of a first initial, I have a sneaking suspicion that it, too, could make you look smarter. After all, doesn’t “F. Scott Fitzgerald” sound more authoritative than “Francis Fitzgerald”?

2. Take out the contacts and put on the glasses

Perfectly / Shutterstock.com

Another way to look more intelligent before you ever speak a word is to wear glasses. Psychology Today lays out some of the research that suggests people believe you are smarter if you wear glasses.

Other research indicates that not just any glasses will do. For the full effect, you’ll want thick-rimmed glasses. Think Leonard Hofstadter from “The Big Bang Theory” glasses. On the downside, those big glasses will likely make you look less attractive. But, hey, you can’t have it all.

3. Focus on looking bright-eyed

Woman looking through a frame created by her hands.
elementals / Shutterstock.com

Speaking of eyes, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found people are perceived to be less intelligent when they have droopy eyelids or a slight frown than when they have more open eyes and a slight smile.

Researchers note that sleep-deprived people tend to have both characteristics of droopy eyes and a sad-looking face. So, getting a good night’s sleep may be key to mastering this trick to looker smarter.

4. Put down the beer

Man raising a glass of beer in cheer
VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

Everyone seems to lose a few IQ points after downing a few drinks, but the mere presence of alcohol in your hand can make you look like a dimwit. In a 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers called this the “imbibing idiot bias.”

In other words, even if you don’t take a sip, the fact that you’re holding an alcoholic drink may give the impression you’re just moments away from being a blithering idiot.

5. Skip gargantuan polysyllabic words

camilla$$ / Shutterstock.com

I know, you just learned what “idiosyncratic” means and want to use it everywhere. But doing so greatly increases your chances of looking like a lame wannabe. Truly smart people use clear, concise language, and by using bigger words than necessary, you risk others thinking you are “gasconading.”

Research published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2005 backs us up. It found the writers of essays who used overly complex vocabulary or too many words were judged to actually be less intelligent.

6. Make eye contact

Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

While you’re speaking clear, concise words, be sure to make eye contact with the other person. It’s a simple way to raise your perceived IQ, as found in this 2007 research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

7. Ask questions rather than make statements

Woman with question mark sign in front of her face
yavyav / Shutterstock.com

You may think sharing your extensive knowledge on all subjects known to man would make you seem smart, but you’d be wrong. Rather, it may make you look like a pompous windbag.

A better approach may be to ask questions or, more specifically, ask for advice. Research out of the Harvard Business School found those who ask for advice are deemed more competent than those who do not.

8. Dress to impress, but keep your assets covered

Asier Romero / Shutterstock.com

If you want to be seen as an intellectual giant, consider putting away the red and reaching for the black instead. According to a survey by an online clothing retailer, only 12% of people thought red was an intelligent color, whereas black got high marks for being both smart and confident.

Speaking of clothes, remember that modest attire is your friend. Researchers from the University of Maryland and Yale University conducted a series of experiments that found when people were regarded as sexual objects, they were perceived as less intelligent. So protest as you will, ladies, but keep the cleavage in check if you want to look like the mental superstar you are.

9. Stand tall and straight

aslysun / Shutterstock.com

I didn’t realize it until researching this article, but apparently taller people are more intelligent than shorter people. As someone who is 5-foot-4, I find this study result a bit troublesome. Nevertheless, let’s put it to our advantage!

Even if you’re not tall, you can make the most of what you’ve got. Good posture can signal that you’re powerful and in control, so if you’re trying to impress someone with your brain, make sure you’re standing or sitting up straight.

10. Take care of your teeth

Anrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

A survey of 1,047 people found that people with straight teeth are 38% more likely to be perceived as smart than those with crooked teeth.

Beyond making you look smarter, good teeth can help you appear younger and more attractive to boot. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to skip evening brushing and flossing.

11. Clean up your language

Africa Rising / Shutterstock.com

You may think a few well-placed swear words add emphasis to your point or color to your personality. But they could, in fact, be making you look like a dummy. A 2012 CareerBuilder survey found that 54% of employers say swearing at work makes someone appear less intelligent.

Resorting to a string of profanities to get your point across may give the impression you’re not smart enough to express yourself in another way.

12. Skip the body mods

Axel Bueckert / Shutterstock.com

Look, I don’t want to stifle your individuality or creativity here, but the reality is that facial piercings can make people question your intellectual prowess. Or at least that’s the finding of a 2012 study published in European Psychologist. Researchers report that the more facial piercings you have, the more negatively people feel about your intelligence. What’s more, men fare worse than women when it comes to dropping perceived IQ points because of piercings.

Finally, look into my eyes and notice my fabulous posture because I, Maryalene T. LaPonsie, would like to ask: What do you think? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Ways to Save Even More at Dollar Stores
7 Ways to Save Even More at Dollar Stores

Yes, it’s possible to pay less than a buck for items from a dollar store. Here’s how.

If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?
If My Spouse Dies, Can I Get Her Social Security?

If a spouse dies, will the survivor collect the other’s share in addition to his or her own?

8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers
8 Amazon Picks Under $30 for Coffee Lovers

We’ve brewed up a list of amazing Amazon products that are sure to perk you up.

10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More
10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

Think you’re a savvy shopper? Find out how retailers persuade you to dig more deeply into your wallet.

26 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay $100,000
26 Work-From-Home Jobs That Pay $100,000

These lucrative gigs let you work in your slippers.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash
8 Surprising Household Items You Can Sell for Fast Cash

Sometimes, the humblest household items are worth the most money.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.