Are Smart People Grumpier?
Maybe After 60, Shows Personality and Intelligence Study
Aug. 10, 2006 -- Grumpy and brainy may go together in older folks; but young
people tend to be more open and friendly if they're bright, researchers
The study looking at the connection between personality and intelligence was
presented today at the American Psychological Association's 2006 convention in
The researchers -- York University's Thomas Baker, MA, and Pennsylvania
State University's Jacqueline Bichsel, PhD -- wanted to see if higher
intelligence test scores matched up with any of five personality traits:
openness, extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.
Neuroticism didn't appear linked to intelligence test scores at any age.
But, among younger subjects (19-60), openness and extroversion, or
friendliness, were tied to higher intelligence scores.
This was not so for the older group (61-89). Instead, a lack of
agreeableness was a predictor for the highest test scores in those over 60.
That is, high scorers tended to be grumpier in the over-60 group.
The results suggest "that a disagreeable nature goes hand in hand with
advanced vocabulary and general knowledge in old age," the researchers
Searching for a Connection
The study included 381 healthy adults, age 19-89, who took personality and
Researchers split participants into two age groups, with age 60 as the
The younger group (aged 19-60) didn't outscore their elders on any of the
The researchers add that other studies, unlike theirs, have linked
grumpiness to intelligence in "highly intelligent young adults (ages
If that's true, it suggests "that a disagreeable nature may foster
intellectual achievement that in turn leads to cognitive vitality in old
age," write Baker and Bichsel.
However, the study doesn't pinpoint which came first: personality or
intelligence. Participants weren't studied as they aged to see if their
personality or intelligence changed.
License to Be Grumpy?
Don't try to flip the findings around or jump to conclusions about the IQs
of people you know.
The study doesn't mean grumpiness makes people smart as they age, or that
all open-minded young extroverts are brilliant. Or that friendly, upbeat elders
and disagreeable youths are dumb.
Also, remember all the older participants had clear minds. Dementia
isn't a normal part of aging, but it's more common
later in life. So this study doesn't represent a cross section of older
Speaking of memory, the researchers also noticed that short-term memory test
scores were better for the over-60s who scored high on conscientiousness and
"Conscientiousness does not necessarily make one 'smarter' but could
enable older individuals to perform better on tests," Baker says in an
American Psychological Association news release.