What Are Signs of Genius?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on June 07, 2022
3 min read

The term genius refers to someone with extraordinary intellectual or creative power. Psychologists in the early 1900s were the first to measure and define genius in terms of a person's intelligence quotient (IQ).

The first genius IQ score was around 140. That’s about one in every 250 people. But one leading researcher in the 1940s suggested that a genius should have an IQ over 180. That’s about one in every 2 million people. 

There is no one definition of genius. But many doctors study highly intelligent, or gifted, children to understand genius better. They define genius as a wealth of originality, creativity, and the ability to imagine or think in new ways and areas.

Could your child have the behaviors and skills of above-average intelligence or genius? Here are some of the traits of extremely high intelligence to watch for.

Scientists don’t know exactly what causes someone to be a genius. There is probably a genetic component to your level of intelligence. Certain types of genes influence how much intellectual power you have. 

Your child’s genetic influences affect their motivation, confidence, and other traits. They greatly impact how well they perform in school or on tests that measure intellect.

There are some certain physical traits shared by the brains of people who are geniuses or who have extreme intelligence.

Larger regional brain volume. Contrary to popular myth, intellect does not result from brain size. But brain scans have shown that gifted people or geniuses have more grey matter. This is the part of your brain responsible for computing and processing information. It directs your attention, memory, language, perception, and interpretations.

Increased brain region connectivity. Highly gifted or genius individuals typically have more active white matter in their brains. White matter is responsible for the communication between different parts of your brain. Genius brains seem to have a better network of these connections. It results in very quick and complex thinking.

Increased sensory sensitivity and emotional processing. Genius brains can experience "superstimulability." Some genius brains are highly sensitive to other people’s emotions. This can help relate to other people. But at times it can be overwhelming and tiring.

There are many different signs of genius. Together they are called "giftedness" in children. No two brains and no two people are the same (even twins!). Different geniuses can display different traits

There is no official checklist for signs of genius. Some signs that often appear in children include:

  • Intense need for mental stimulation and engagement
  • Ability to learn new topics quickly
  • Ability to process new and complex information rapidly
  • Desire to explore specific topics in great depth
  • Insatiable curiosity, often demonstrated by many questions
  • Learning educational material at grade levels ahead
  • Emotional depth and sensitivity
  • Excitement about unique topics or interests
  • A mature or unique sense of humor
  • Imaginative and able to discover creative solutions to problems
  • Quick learner
  • More aware than other kids of self, social situations, and global issues

Some standardized tests assess whether your child is gifted or considered a genius. The full assessment includes a standardized exam to measure their intellectual capacity and observations of how your child interacts in a classroom setting.

Parents of gifted kids are given recommendations for how to help their children thrive and advice to give their teachers.

Talk to your child's school about what resources are available in your community if you want these tests or assessments for your child.

The signs of high intellectual power in adults are similar to those in children. They include quick learning, interest in unique topics, and the ability to process information fast, among others. Some other habits or behaviors that may indicate a high level of intelligence or genius in an adult are:

  • Tendency to have slightly cluttered living areas and workspaces
  • Fluency in taboo or " swear" words
  • Preferring late hours (being a " night owl") to early mornings
  • Value being alone or time without crowded spaces
  • An excellent memory

Intellect can sometimes be associated with other conditions, especially in adults. Sometimes high intelligence is related to certain anxiety disorders. 

There are also overlaps between the autism spectrum and extreme intelligence.

Every brain and each person are different. Genius is not a standardized measure. Contact your local educational system or doctor for more information if you think that your child or you may have the signs of genius.