The more intelligent a person is, the less they speak, is this true?

The more intelligent a person is the less they speak

In the collective imagination, the intelligent person listens and demonstrates wisdom. She doesn’t show off “her knowledge” to everyone…

In the scientific literature, theintelligence of a person is more associated with the quality of speechno matter how long the person speaks. “According to the definition of intelligence given by a committee of researchers brought together by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1996, intelligence refers to the overall and variable aptitude between individuals to deal with complex ideas in everyday life,adapt effectively to their environment, to learn from experienceto engage in various reasoningsand to overcome the obstacles thinking about it” reminds us psychologist Nathalie Boisselier. This is measured with the Wechsler scales which allow the intelligence quotient calculation (IQ) ranging from 40 to 160. IQ is the result of four large capacities measured by the Wechsler scales:

  • verbal intelligence,
  • non-verbal intelligence (logic, capacity for abstraction)
  • speed of information processing
  • working memory (ability to retain information over a short period of time and manipulate it to reason).

Smart people listen more than they talk

“Thinking that intelligent people talk less is a popular belief that makes intuitive sense: intelligent people listen more than they speak, and wisdom is silent. However, there is nothing in scientific research to support this belief.” So for Nathalie Boisselier “Intelligent people are not necessarily quiet people”. She also highlights a “dangerous” trend to want associate personal characteristics which are sources of psychological suffering to flattering qualities like an extraordinary intelligence. This trend must be questioned. Because it pushes people to say they can’t change when they can, with the help of a psychologist.

Talking too much or little: what does it mean?

A study by Rubback and Dabbs dating from 1986 showed that a high verbal intelligence can drive to respect speaking times and therefore his interlocutors, and to take the time to think before speaking. But that doesn’t mean the person talks less. In 2011, another study was carried out on the volubilitythat is to say ease of speech. “This is a discourse whose content is not very rich, which has no function, and which therefore requires little intellectual effort.” This study thus showed that volubility was not explained by the intelligence quotient. On the contrary, the authors demonstrated that IQ was not associated with talkativeness but to verbal fluency, that is to say the number of words emitted with the aim of producing an intellectually demanding speech, the opposite of volubility. Talking too much or too little is therefore not a sign of intelligence or non-intelligence. In fact, it appears that volubility is a personality characteristic that is not linked to IQ. This may simply be due to a personality trait introvert or extrovert. When it is within the norm, the volubility maybe associated with extroversion and sociability. It then describes people who willingly initiate conversation and keep it goingthese people are more talkative than introverted people, who will therefore talk less.

Pathologies hidden behind volubility

At more pathological levels, ease of speech can be associated with:

►At the bipolarity in manic phases. “Bipolar people in a manic phase can actually speak quickly, with little pause between words.”

►At the schizophrenia, “which in certain cases can generate the same type of speech as described previously (bipolarity), but with disorganized speech, that is to say difficult to follow.”

►At narcissistic personality disorder. “Narcissistic people may have river speech where they put themselves forward, or monologues during which it is impossible to react, and which aim to diminish the value of others or even to humiliate them.

►At theanxiety. “Some anxious people may have a tendency to verbalize their anxious ruminations out loud, a maladaptive social coping strategy. Their nervousness may also lead them to talk too much in public, and even when they are alone because it allows them to avoid doing facing inner experience.”

►At ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)which can lead to talking too much and often cutting off due to difficulty waiting one’s turn.

►In the autism spectrum disorders, “we can sometimes encounter too much volubility, especially if the speech concerns one of the person’s restricted centers of interest, and due to a difficulty in understanding social expectations (waiting for one’s turn to speak, knowing how to adapt to the interests of the interlocutor, understanding their wish to change the subject of conversation, etc.)”.

Thanks to Nathalie Boisselier, psychologist.