Perceived intelligence is associated with measured intelligence in men but not women

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 20;9(3):e81237. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081237. eCollection 2014.


Background: The ability to accurately assess the intelligence of other persons finds its place in everyday social interaction and should have important evolutionary consequences.

Methodology/principal findings: We used static facial photographs of 40 men and 40 women to test the relationship between measured IQ, perceived intelligence, and facial shape. Both men and women were able to accurately evaluate the intelligence of men by viewing facial photographs. In addition to general intelligence, figural and fluid intelligence showed a significant relationship with perceived intelligence, but again, only in men. No relationship between perceived intelligence and IQ was found for women. We used geometric morphometrics to determine which facial traits are associated with the perception of intelligence, as well as with intelligence as measured by IQ testing. Faces that are perceived as highly intelligent are rather prolonged with a broader distance between the eyes, a larger nose, a slight upturn to the corners of the mouth, and a sharper, pointing, less rounded chin. By contrast, the perception of lower intelligence is associated with broader, more rounded faces with eyes closer to each other, a shorter nose, declining corners of the mouth, and a rounded and massive chin. By contrast, we found no correlation between morphological traits and real intelligence measured with IQ test, either in men or women.

Conclusions: These results suggest that a perceiver can accurately gauge the real intelligence of men, but not women, by viewing their faces in photographs; however, this estimation is possibly not based on facial shape. Our study revealed no relation between intelligence and either attractiveness or face shape.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Form Perception
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests*
  • Intelligence*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by Czech Grant Agency project GACR P407/11/1464 ( and by Charles University in Prague project UNCE 204004 ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.