11 Signs of a Low IQ in Adults & How to Recognize Them

Signs of a low IQ include an unwillingness to learn and grow, a lack of interest in how the world works, and poorly developed cognitive faculties.

11 Signs of a Low IQ in Adults & How to Recognize Them main image

Highly intelligent people are usually easy to spot, as they inadvertently stand out from the crowd. Spotting people with low IQs, on the other hand, can be more tricky depending on the situation, but sometimes it’s just as straightforward since some signs of a low IQ are pretty easy to recognize in both adults and children.

While doing research for this article, we’ve asked our experts to provide a comprehensive overview of these traits to first clarify what exactly we mean by low IQ, as well as how it manifests in human behavior.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

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11 Signs of a Low IQ

What Are Some Signs of a Low IQ

What Are Some Signs of a Low IQ

In theory, the ultimate sign of a low IQ is an IQ test score below 85. But in practice, that’s not always the case. If you take enough IQ tests, it is possible to train yourself to perform well, or at least considerably better.

However, even if an IQ test claims someone has a high or average IQ, there are certain traits that might prove otherwise. Conversely, a person with a low score on an IQ test could exhibit characteristics commonly associated with people who have high IQs.

In other words, although helpful, IQ tests aren’t the ultimate indicators of intelligence. Instead, to determine whether you’re dealing with a low-IQ person, you should observe their behavior.

To help you in your observations, here are some common signs of a low IQ.

#1. Lack of Curiosity

High intelligence is often characterized by insatiable curiosity and constant learning, while the opposite is frequently true for low intelligence.

Instead of trying to gain new experiences and learn more about the world, people with low IQs are usually content with what they know. They don’t feel the need to expand their horizons as long as their level of knowledge is enough to help them get by.

So, take a look around you. Do you know anyone who never shows interest in going beyond the obvious and expanding their sphere of knowledge? This person likely has a low IQ.

#2. No Desire to Invest in Education & Personal Growth

Education is a lifelong process that doesn’t end after graduation, yet people with low IQs often don’t see it that way. Instead, they think of it as a waste of time, usually going only as far in their education journey as they need to for their chosen career and nothing more.

A telltale sign of a low IQ is not understanding how studying and learning, in general, can benefit your personal growth and development. Often, people with low intelligence think they’ve reached their full potential once they become adults and feel no need to work on themselves beyond that.

#3. Black and White Thinking

A woman being portrayed in black and white

A woman being portrayed in black and white

In children’s books, it’s easy to distinguish the hero from the villain and decide whose side to take. However, the real world is rarely like that—nuances await around every corner, painting our reality in numerous shades of gray.

Unfortunately, our brains are notoriously susceptible to black-and-white thinking, seeking clear-cut answers even when there are none. This is called cognitive economy, and it’s basically our tendency to save energy and reduce uncertainty with as little thinking as possible.

Despite that, intelligent people can override this natural tendency and train their minds to spot complexities and avoid seeing things in extremes.

But people with low IQs don't seem able (or willing) to do that. They quickly fall into an “us vs. them” mindset, see things and people as either good or bad, and struggle to understand nuance in complex situations. As a result, they’re easily manipulated and more likely to make poor decisions.

#4. Lack of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking can be challenging even for individuals with high IQs; it requires practice before it becomes second nature. You must challenge your own opinions and beliefs, as well as those deeply rooted in society, before you can be called a critical thinker.

So, it’s unsurprising that people with low IQs struggle with this. In most cases, they aren’t even aware that their beliefs may be flawed. By their logic, if they’ve served them so far, there’s no need to change them.

#5. Absence of Creativity

Creativity usually arises from a high-IQ mind that’s been exposed to enough stimulation and new experiences.

For instance, a thought-provoking film or an interesting exhibition may inspire you to write a story, create your own art, or even come up with a new approach to your work assignments.

However, as we’ve seen, people with low IQs rarely seek new experiences and aren’t curious to learn about new topics. As a result, they are much less likely to be creative, instead following the crowd and sticking to tried-and-true solutions even when they are far from ideal.

#6. Poor Decision-Making Abilities

To make good decisions, you need to be able to analyze your current situation, predict the potential paths ahead, and weigh the pros and cons of each outcome. In other words, your cognitive abilities, intuition, and intrapersonal intelligence must be highly developed.

Otherwise, you might feel like you’re stumbling in the dark, trying to decide but unable to see the potential outcomes of your decision. In such a situation, taking the wrong turn is almost inevitable.

Poor decision-making is one of the most prominent signs of a low IQ and is often the easiest to notice. For example, if a person keeps buying expensive brands of clothes despite their low salary, they clearly don’t have a developed forecasting ability and most likely aren’t highly intelligent.

#7. Inability to See the Bigger Picture

The greatest thinkers in history, such as Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla, could picture the world not just as it was in their time but also as it would be in the future. They had an excellent grasp of how humanity’s actions would shape the world decades before they happened.

Of course, not all people with high IQs have the ability to zoom out from their own perspective that much. Still, most can view the world from a wider angle, understanding how actions and events are interconnected and their own role in the grand scheme of things.

On the other hand, people with low IQs don’t typically show this capacity. They tend to have a very narrow view, focusing primarily on themselves and not truly understanding how their actions affect their surroundings.

#8. Poor Interpersonal Skills

Despite the stereotype that geniuses struggle with communication and maintaining interpersonal relationships, most people with high IQs have decent people skills. In general, they can empathize, deal with criticism, and have little difficulty understanding other perspectives.

On the contrary, people with low IQs may struggle with some of these aspects, making communication more difficult.

In addition, they may miss some nuances in communication, such as sarcasm, or neglect other people’s feelings in favor of their own.

#9. Lack of Empathy

Lack of empathy and compassion as signs of low IQ

Lack of empathy and compassion as signs of low IQ

Although empathy is usually mentioned in relation to emotional intelligence, it also characterizes people with high IQs. In fact, emotional intelligence and general intelligence often go hand in hand, affecting and enhancing each other.

Usually, empathy requires the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes and understand their perspective. Unfortunately, people with low IQs struggle with different perspectives and show little curiosity about them. So, it’s easy to conclude that a lack of empathy can be a sign of a low IQ.

#10. Lack of Humility

While highly intelligent people often worry about the limits of their knowledge, individuals with low IQs don’t seem to have that issue. They are frequently overconfident, certain of their capabilities even when they have no reason to be.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s related to the phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, the cognitive bias that causes people with little knowledge or skill to overestimate their competence.

The reason for this is simple: these people don’t truly understand the scope and nuances of the field they claim to be competent in. As a result, they believe they know all there is to know, even if they’ve only scratched the surface.

#11. Lack of Self-Awareness

Another telltale sign of a low IQ is the lack of self-awareness necessary to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and understand the consequences of your actions.

People who lack self-awareness find themselves repeating the same mistake over and over again, rejecting any outside feedback, and acting as if the world revolves around them. Moreover, as mentioned before, they significantly overestimate themselves.

Ultimately, all this leads to difficulty solving problems, maintaining relationships, and breaking out of unhealthy cycles and habits.

Signs of Low IQ in Children

A kid on the ground crying

A kid on the ground crying

Unlike adults, children don’t have fully developed cognitive faculties, so their IQ is also not at its full potential. Still, differences in intelligence have been observed as early as infancy, meaning that you can catch signs of a low IQ much before your child takes an official IQ test.

Here are a few signs of a low IQ in a child to look out for:

  • Learning motor skills later than other kids. Babies learn to sit up and crawl without support when they are between six and eight months old. Soon after that, they begin to stand. If your child is older yet still struggling to sit, it could be a sign of a low IQ.
  • Learning to speak later than other kids. You can expect your child to say its first word sometime between 12 and 18 months of age. If that doesn’t happen, the delay could be caused by a developmental issue or a low IQ.
  • Difficulty with logical thinking. Kids may not be the most rational beings, but they can still grasp logical concepts when they are appropriately presented to them. If your child has trouble with that or reasoning in general, the cause could be a low IQ.
  • Difficulty understanding the consequences of their actions. A child with a low IQ may struggle to form connections between their actions and the outcomes that result from them. In their minds, their actions exist in a vacuum, and it may be difficult to explain why that’s not the case.

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What to Do If You Suspect You Might Have a Low IQ

Unfortunately, not everyone can be gifted with a high IQ, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on your intelligence. In fact, even if you think you have a low IQ, there are ways to develop it and score higher on an IQ test.

We advise you to start with a new hobby—preferably one that engages your cognitive faculties. For example, you could try playing an instrument, learn to play chess or take a language course.

If none of that sounds appealing, just reading books frequently could be beneficial. Make sure to compile a diverse reading list containing both fiction and nonfiction. That way, you’ll give your brain plenty to chew on.

Aside from that, you could boost your IQ score with mental exercises, brain teasers, and puzzles. Do a few every day and keep your brain in tip-top shape.

And even if you don’t achieve the desired results, don’t worry. Plenty of successful and famous people have low IQs, and it doesn’t prevent them from pursuing their goals. So your score shouldn’t have a significant impact on your life either.

Key takeaways

Key Takeaways

A low IQ is much more than a score on an IQ test—it’s also a reluctance to better yourself and a lack of desire to understand and learn about the world. And in many ways, that’s far worse than being genuinely incapable but still wanting to try.

So, even if you get a low score on an IQ test, don’t be discouraged. As long as you work on yourself, you’ll certainly reach your full potential, both in regard to your intelligence and in any field you are interested in.

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