10 Behaviors of Smart People

Source: https://flic.kr/p/7RxBE3

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Entrepreneur.com recently ran an article outlining ten behaviors of smart people. The list is actually very much in-line with a behavioral science view, which will be of interest to bSci21 readers.  The list will be discussed below, but within a more explicit behavioral science framework derived from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.  In a sentence, the ten behaviors of smart people all relate to a heightened sensitivity to one’s environment and increased tendency to changing one’s behavior as the situation demands.  Keep in mind that, though the list was originally written for entrepreneurs, it can really apply to all facets of life.

Ok, here we go:

1. Smart people understand the consequences of their decisions.  In business, and really every other facet of life, things progress a decision at a time.  If you can consistently make good decisions and reap the benefits, you will go far.

2. Smart people learn from past consequences.  This is particularly relevant to past failures.  When smart people make mistakes, they take full advantage of the opportunity to better themselves and ensure they never make the same mistake again.

3. Smart people recognize that they don’t know everything.  In other words, smart people are able to track the correspondence between their own behavior and the consequences it produces.  If you are able to do that, you will soon realize you don’t know everything — no one knows everything.  Smart people accept this and know when to seek out others for guidance.

4. Smart people surround themselves with other smart people.  If you surround yourself with people who share the same types of reinforcers as you, everyone’s productivity goes up.

5. Smart people are resourceful.  Smart people, particularly entrepreneurs, make the most of what they have.  They see opportunity where others see a brick wall.  Their behavior is much less rigid than most others — what behavioral scientists call psychological flexibility.

6. Smart people can reason.  In this context, reasoning refers to the ability of smart people to hold their ground when appropriate, but to change direction in the face of evidence.  This is another example of psychological flexibility (see above).

7. Smart people ignore fads.  Smart people tend to be less pliance-based than other people.  Pliance is a term for a person who follows behavioral rules based on arbitrary socially-mediated consequences.  Instead, smart people are more likely to engage in tracking — following behavioral rules based on the non-arbitrary consequences of your behavior on your surroundings.

8. Smart people live within their means.  In other words, smart people tend to manage their money effectively and are keen at avoiding to aversive financial contingencies.

9. Smart people are their own worst enemy.  Sometimes, the very things that make people smart (i.e., a peculiar sensitivity to one’s environment and psychological flexibility) can turn around to haunt them.  I’m sure many of you have been in this situation as well.  You overanalyze things to the point of inaction.

10. Smart people aren’t always successful.  This applies to entrepreneurship and beyond.  Intelligence isn’t everything in life.  Many things happen in the larger society or culture that are out of our control.  However, smart people are more successful than not.  They make the most of what they have and, perhaps with a little luck, make it big.

What do you think about this list?  What did it leave off?  Let us know in the comments below!  Also, check out the many resources at the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science if you would like to learn more about Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and concepts like psychological flexibility, tracking, and pliance.

Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive new articles directly to your inbox!


Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

4 Comments on "10 Behaviors of Smart People"

  1. I think the article is fabulous. I totally agree with it. while I was reading it a lot of examples of people around me came to my mind.

  2. Thank you for this great article! So true!

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