You might think that the only people who can ever hope to be charismatic are those with massive IQs. Well, science has some new information which will blow your mind. Researchers have found that mental speed is a more important predictor than IQ when it comes to charisma.
Mental Speed Over IQ
Psychology professor William von Hippel from the University of Queensland conducted a study to figure out why some people are more charismatic than others. Going into the study, the team thought that mental agility was going to be an important factor, but they anticipated IQ to be a more determining factor. When the results showed otherwise, they were quite surprised.
Although IQ does have some role to play, it appears that those who were faster at mental speed tasks were more likely to be rated as charismatic by their peers. These mental speed tasks involved answering common-knowledge questions as quickly as possible. Charisma was measured by asking the peers to rate the individual on three dimensions: charisma, humor, and quick wit.
The Virtues Of A Quick Mind
Researchers have identified several reasons for why a quick mind may play such a critical role in determining charisma.
Von Hippel reports, “we found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they were. So knowing the right answer to a tough questions appears to be less important than being able to consider a large number of social responses in a brief window of time.”
Thus, the ability to navigate a large number of replies quickly and effectively is a critical benefit of the quick mind. Given that those who are charismatic tend to find themselves in leadership positions which demand processing information from a variety of different sources, this advantage clearly contributes to the success of those with genuine charisma.
Another advantage of a quick mind relates to reaction time. One of the reasons we find particular individuals to be charismatic is their ability to navigate complicated situations with grace. This often requires quickly managing any inappropriate or less-than-graceful steps all while staying cool and collected.
Many of the world’s most famous charismatic leaders share a tendency for humor. When dealing with numerous challenges, it is important to indicate a sense of ease and enjoyment of the tasks at hand. A charismatic leader often demonstrates their mastery of the situation by cracking a few jokes. These jokes come much easier when an individual is quick minded.
Speed + Social Intelligence = Charisma
Although there is no crystal clear formula to fostering charisma, several key components have become clearer through von Hippel’s study. One does need to have a good grip on navigating the social cues of contemporary life. This includes knowing the rules of social situations and reading facial expressions. However, an excellent understanding of these alone will not make a person charismatic.
When an individual has these social cues mastered, and he or she has the more general property of being quick minded, he or she may be worthy of the title “charismatic.” Although this study clearly highlights the importance of mental speed, it also suggests that other general mental properties may factor into charisma as well. Further research is needed to see what, if anything, beyond mental agility is key to finding those of us who are most charismatic.
For those of us looking to increase our own charisma, we can learn a few things from this research. First, we’ve got to practice reading social cues. That will give us the foundation we need to do well when the time comes. Second, we’ve got to train our minds to process information quickly and effectively. Although percisely how this training might play out is still debated by leading researchers, some tools such as brain games or logic puzzles may be our road to success. One thing we do not have to strictly focus on is raising our IQ. While a high IQ may help a charismatic person solve problems, ultimately it’s not the determining factor.
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