Saturday, July 13, 2024

Why Smart People Do Foolish Things?

Even the smartest people in the room can act dumb sometimes. The human brain is by far the smartest among all other species on this planet. Empathetic and self-serving, extremely intelligent yet sometimes incredibly dumb, we humans are capable of surprising and unpredictable behavior. Interestingly, there isn’t a fine line between stupidity and genius, depending on the circumstances presented. For example, the fictional character from the British comedy television program Mr. Bean displays such dumb behavior, but his intellect is off the charts. The truth is, even geniuses make pretty foolish decisions sometimes due to contributing factors despite the assumption that we’re capable of making the best decisions for ourselves. But the real question is why do intelligent people make such bad decisions in the first place?

What Does Being Smart Mean Anyway?


Having a high IQ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re knowledgeable in all aspects. These days, we know there are several types of intelligence, and being a master in one kind of smart doesn’t make you impervious to stupidity.

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Moreover, with news reports of doctors being fooled by scammers on the internet or politicians being caught in precarious situations, we can’t assume that being excellent at your job means that you’re able to control yourself in the matters of love (and lust).

Lately, many studies show that having a high level of logical intelligence could mean you’re less likely to have the same level of emotional intelligence.

1. Smart People Have Blind Spots

Much like if you’re driving a car, you may have a blind spot when it comes to certain subjects or people.

If you’re flirting with someone you find attractive, you may share information about yourself that you wouldn’t normally share or lie to impress someone.

If you are familiar with a certain type of machinery, you may assume that other kinds of mechanical things work the same, even if that’s not the case and could wreak havoc.

Having a blind spot happens to all of us. From relationships, we build with people and the things we learn every day. We may think we’re experts in a field, but there are always more pieces of information to learn and build from.

2. It’s Harder To Develop Character

When you’re the smartest person in the room and you know the answers to everything, it’s easy to feel overly confident when it comes to most things. However, when “ordinary” people make mistakes, we build character.

Building character increases many positive attributes, including empathy and a greater understanding of situations as they arise.

If making mistakes doesn’t happen to you often, you’re more willing to do foolish actions as you believe the outcome will be in your favor. Smart people often zoom past us to the gold when we struggle through job applications and school tests. Eventually, though, life hands all of us lemons, even to overly-intelligent people.

3. Socially Acceptance Is A Strong Pull

Even if smart people “know better,” sometimes it’s more important to be accepted in a group setting rather than going against the norm, even if it means acting dumb. If a knowledgeable person can see problems a mile away but chooses not to say anything, they may feel some twinge of regret.

However, perhaps one of the most important takeaways at that moment is to be accepted among their peers or even their superiors. Contradicting the norm (even if the norm is wrong and they know it’s wrong) can be incredibly difficult to do in some social situations, depending on the circumstance. This begs the question: Would you rather always be right or be well-liked?

4. Subconscious Self-Sabotage

If you think of the smartest person from your days in school, who do you think of? Did they tend to be the “nerd”?

Certainly, nerds have a reputation of getting picked on in their youth, often by jealous peers who didn’t like that they were different than what was considered normal social behavior.

If one is tormented in their youth, anger and frustration build up over time. Those feelings could be put into building a successful empire, but they could also be equally used for self-sabotage. The force that drives someone to succeed may also contain some emotional baggage bubbling up as well.

Though we live in a time where new technology is being created every day, and diseases are being cured by the greatest minds of our time, we are only human at the end of the day.

Social pressures, overconfidence, and self-sabotage may play a role in the foolishness smart people partake in, and it’s important to recognize that intelligence comes in many different forms and is displayed in a wide variety of ways. Choosing how and when using this intelligence, however, is a different story.

5. Smart People Make Bad Decisions

Sometimes smartness can cloud people’s judgment, which can lead them to make bad decisions. For example, the following may be the reasons why smart people make bad decisions:

  • Overconfidence. Smart people can considerably exaggerate the accuracy of their predictions. The whole “I know it all” syndrome can lead them to make a bad decision, in turn affecting the lives of everyone around them.
  • Sometimes the smartness and intelligence of people can lead them to think that all complex problems require complex decisions.
  • Also, at times sometimes smartness can delude people to elaborate stories about some things that happened.
  • They indulge so much in the problem, which in turn can harm themselves and lead them to make bad decisions.
  • In a conversation with Harvard Business Review, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, shares that “in decision-making, there is an institution of meetings. Executives spend a lot of their lives in meetings. And I think it’s fair to say that meetings are by and large not optimized. That there is a lot of time being wasted.” 
  • He further states, “one obvious target for decision hygiene is how to conduct meetings and make meetings feel more efficiently be more efficient. That is one hopeful way of thinking about decision hygiene that people will immediately recognize. That’s not bureaucracy; that just improves life.”

Smart Vs. Intelligent

Are all smart people intelligent and all intelligent people smart? Does having a 140+ IQ make you smarter, or does your acquired aptitude makes you more intelligent? Is there a difference between the two?

Intelligence and smartness are behavioral adjectives, and we use them to define a person’s qualities. Although these two terms appear to be interchangeable, they are far from it and hold separate meanings and differences.

There are a few basic differences between being intelligent vs. smart:

  • The origin of the two terms.
  • Humans are born with intelligence.
  • Smartness is something we obtain through learning and experiencing things.
  • Smart people are objective, more practical, and analytical.
  • Other people, on the contrary, are comprehensive.

Therefore, smart people can or cannot be intelligent. They may or may not be empathetic depending upon the situation and the person involved. Moreover, smart people are more adaptable as compared to intelligent ones. Whereas, on the one hand, we can measure a person’s intelligence by performing Intelligence tests such as RPM; on the contrary, we cannot measure a person’s smartness.

Signs Of Intelligent People

There exist certain common signs all intelligent possess and use in everyday life. A few of them are:

  • Intelligent people have a strong sense of self.
  • A strong sense of self is present therein intelligent people.
  • They are more sympathetic and empathetic towards others.
  • They are inquisitive beings, wanting to learn new things.
  • Intelligent has a great memory and can remember almost everything they once learn by heart.
  • Intelligent people aren’t just bookworms. Instead, they go way beyond books and just theoretical knowledge.
  • Practice makes a man perfect is a phrase that intelligent people praise and follow by heart.

How To Avoid Making Foolish Mistakes?


Words such as “errors” and “mistakes” might seem to be rather small or too easy to speak, but they can impact us in more ways than we can realize. Moreover, committing foolish mistakes to embarrass us even further, and we question ourselves and our actions.

We can not undo a mistake once it’s done. But we can surely avoid making mistakes and errors wherever possible.

Here’s a guide to stop making silly mistakes.

1. Avoid Multitasking

Often, we do more than one task at a time, thinking it will save us time and energy. But it is multitasking that can cause us to commit mistakes and errors.

study conducted by the University of London states that people who multitasked while performing cognitive activities had IQ scores similar to those who had stayed up all night. However, the IQ of some people multitasking dropped by 15 points, putting them at the level of an 8-year-old child.

For instance, you’re writing essays for two different topics, and you’re doing both side-by-side, this, in turn, can hamper your work, and mistakes and errors could occur.

Instead of multitasking, do one task at a time.

2. Crosschecking Information

After completing any task, make sure you double-check the information or the work you’ve done. This helps us correct the mistakes that might have occurred and can correct them while possible.

For instance, you completed your final exam before time, make sure you cross-check all the answers and correct even the smallest bit of mistakes.

3. Eliminate Distractions

Sometimes, we use our cell phones while working or eat while working. Unfortunately, doing such things leads to the occurrence of mistakes in the work you might be doing. Therefore, make sure you distance yourself from all the necessary things that might distract you and your work.

For example, you keep replying to your friends while writing an essay which leads you to write the message in the essay and vice versa. This small distraction cost can you the marks you wish to obtain.

Furthermore, according to a study by NCBI, it was proved that distractions while working can affect a person’s cognitive abilities and memory.

4. Take Breaks In Between

Taking necessary brain is good for your physical well as mental health. Usually, after a break, we feel more refreshed and do the work with the same energy we started it with.

Let’s look at an example of it; after studying for 40-minute, you take a 20-minute break and stretch your muscles a bit, walk around the house, drink water, grab a snack, and even pet your dog. After doing all these things, your mind is at peace, which will make you feel refreshed and ready to finish the tasks at hand.

Concluding Thoughts,

Because of their clumsiness and their sometimes-foolish mistakes, smart people are often looked down upon. However, we oftentimes forget that they are, in fact, just humans.

Since some of them have been labeled as smart people, they are questioned and judged more. Society and people around us expect us to be the best and perfect in everything; they expect us to be the smartest of all. But they never take a step ahead when we make mistakes.

So instead of putting a tag on smart people for doing foolish things, we as humans together should help them out instead of isolating them and putting them in a box for doing foolish things.

Key Takeaways of Why Smart People Do Foolish/Stupid Things

  • We cannot measure the smartness of a person.
  • Social Acceptance is a strong pull: To gain acceptance in the small bubble of society, smart people go above and beyond and do things only to be accepted.
  • Even smart people have certain blind spots that can lead them to do foolish things.
  • Intelligence and smartness are two different things.
  • We acquire smartness over time.
  • Smartness is a learned behavior.
  • It is possible for smart people to avoid making foolish mistakes.
  • Smart People Make Bad Decisions: Smartness can sometimes cloud people’s judgment, which can lead them to make bad decisions.
  • Avoid Multitasking: Do one task at a time. It allows you not to make any unnecessary mistakes.
  • Crosscheck information: Cross-check the task you complete. It helps you in correcting them before anything major happens.
  • Eliminate distraction: While working, make sure to free yourself from any distractions. Distractions may lead to foolish and dumb mistakes.
  • Take breaks in between: Taking short breaks between long working hours refreshes our mind. Usually, after breaks, we tend to do the tasks more quickly and efficiently.
  • It is a myth that only smart people make foolish mistakes.
  • Smart people may or may not be intelligent.
  • With the right practices and patience, we can learn to avoid making mistakes.

Do smart people lack common sense?

Smart people let their brains take over in situations where they’re just supposed to use a bit of common sense. So, for example, smart people oftentimes calculate things such as feelings, emotions, etc., instead of feeling them.

As psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa stated, “instead of feeling, humans think in situations where they are supposed to feel.”

Are smart people empathetic?

Smart people have empathetic nature. Their empathetic nature allows them to feel the emotions the other person is feeling.

Does being smart makes you dangerous?

There is a downside to being smart as well. Such as:

  • Smart people think instead of feeling.
  • Therefore, they overthink things a lot.
  • Smart people tend to correct the mistakes of others which might affect interpersonal relationships.
  • There is the expectation of being perfect in everything you do.

Can smart people keep away from making foolish mistakes?

Yes, with the right balance and practices, people can refrain from making foolish mistakes.

Are smart people extroverts?

A person’s smartness and intelligence aren’t based on personality traits. So a smart person can be an extrovert.

Do only smart people make foolish mistakes?

No, it is, in fact, a myth that only smart people make foolish mistakes. We, as humans in general, can make foolish mistakes.

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