Ignorance IS Bliss: Anxiety Linked to Higher IQs

By R. Siva Kumar - 19 Apr '15 19:34PM
  • Mindy Kaling
  • (Photo : FOX via Getty Images) Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is nervous to host dinner for Danny's priest in the 'Confessions of a Catho-holic' episode of THE MINDY PROJECT airing Tuesday, March 10 (9:30-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Is a worry wart smart?

It does seem so, according to slate.com. Recently, psychologist Alexander Penney with a team of colleagues studied over 100 students at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, and asked them about their levels of worry. Finding that students who showed more worry and admitted statements such as: "I am always worrying about something" were higher scorers on verbal intelligence tests.

"It is possible that more verbally intelligent individuals are able to consider past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry," said the researchers.

"Individuals with higher non-verbal intelligence may be stronger at processing the non-verbal signals from individuals they interact with in the moment, leading to a decreased need to re-process past social encounters," according to dailymail.

In another 2012 experiment by psychologists Tsachi Ein-Dor and Orgad Tal, from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel, about 80 students were subjected to stress.

The students were told to assess artwork presented by a software program. In the process, some participants "accidentally" activated an aggressive computer virus. Next, they had to get technical support immediately.

But meanwhile, the students were faced with more challenges. One student asked them to conduct a survey, while another student dropped some papers on their feet. However, the participants with higher scores had to focus on the original computer virus glitch. "We found that anxious individuals were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message," Ein-Dor and Tal said in the study.

Hence, Ein-Dor and Tal showed that those who worried could smell a rat faster than the others. From the two researchers' perspective, it is clear that if you habitually fret, you can immediately sense a solution.

Psychiatrist Jeremy Coplan from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York said that people who suffered from generalized anxiety disorder had a higher IQ than others with milder symptoms.

The idea that worriers might look at multiple perspectives of a situation, looking at the past, future and the present, can lead them to worry about many intense situations.

Hence, it is thought that children who may become worriers might be attentive or diligent in school, hence worrying might be a form of vigilance.

Moreover, if imaginative agitation is based on a realistic view of future events, according to Los Angeles-based therapist Allen Wagner, there may be safety solutions.

However, contradictory studies show the opposite. In Coplan's study showing higher IQ in people with more severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, for instance, higher IQ is linked with lower worry in the control group.

According to Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, the smarter you are, the more chilled you are. "There are exceptions, obviously, but the basic finding is sound. One explanation for the negative correlation is pretty straightforward: When people are anxious, they don't think very clearly," Epstein said.

Still, most scientists believe that worrying leads to intelligence. Many brilliant thinkers suffered from anxiety, including Charles Darwin, after all.

Fun Stuff

Join the Conversation

The Next Read

Real Time Analytics