How to Look Smart Even If You’re Stupid

noun_10157Let’s say you are about to go on a job interview, or perhaps on a first date (a meeting with someone you are romantically interested in). Your hair looks great. Your clothes are nice. But you are worried about what the other person will think of you. You want to seem like you are an intelligent person, a smart person.

Is there anything you can do to make you look smart, even if you are not?

It turns out (It just so happens) that there are things you can do to look smart, but some of them are not what many people think will make them look smart.

A series of studies (scientific investigations) by a professor at Loyola Marymount University here in Los Angeles found that some of the things you think make you look smart, don’t. For example, here are some things that people think will make them look smart:

  • Putting on (Having) a serious look on your face
  • Holding your hands and arms very still (not moving them)
  • Using big words and complex (complicated) sentences
  • Moving or talking faster than others around you

In the studies, none of these things that people thought would make them look smart actually did. In fact, using big words and talking or moving more quickly actually makes people think you are less intelligent than if you used simpler language and spoke more slowly.

But there were four other things that people thought would make them look smart that actually did make them look smart:

  • Looking at others while speaking
  • Standing or sitting up straight (erect; vertical)
  • Wearing glasses
  • Using a middle initial (first letter of your middle name) when you sign your name

The first three don’t surprise me, but the last one does. Apparently, I will look smarter if I sign my name “Jeffrey L. McQuillan” than if I sign it “Jeffrey McQuillan.” Good thing I have a middle name!

There were also a few things that people didn’t name (mention; say) as ways of making one look smarter that people actually do pay attention to. These include:

  • Having a self-confident expression (looking sure of or really believing what you are saying)
  • Nodding (moving your head up and down when someone else is talking) and gesturing (using your hands to express yourself)
  • Speaking in a pleasant (nice-sounding) voice
  • Using clear (easy to hear and understand) language

Of course, looking smart and being smart are not the same thing. If you aren’t very smart, eventually (at some time in the future) the other person will probably figure it out (realize it). But for now, put on those glasses, sit up straight, and look the other person in the eye. You might just get that job – or a second date – if you do.

~Jeffrey L. McQuillan

Image Credit: Einstein by Robert Beerwerth

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23 Responses to How to Look Smart Even If You’re Stupid

  1. Dan says:

    Hey everyone.

    It’s just me or that Einstein image/icon looks creepy.
    I looks like a sea monster that catches you and after that licks your face with that tongue.
    The licking face monster.

    That thing about the middle name is probably a thing of certain countries.
    Here in Italy, as far as I know, having the middle name is uncommon.


  2. peter says:

    Does shades counts ?:)

    Man, seems like looking smart is a lot of work. No wonder ,I can’t get a date or pass an interview for that matter. I must keep in mind that next time I wanna approach to a woman on the street arch my back first!:)
    You know , I m slouching while walking as I am a gangly guy:)
    Well , what can I do ? Being tall has its pitfalls.:)
    I didn’t know either Jeff. Please help me here . I can’t connect the dots. How does on earth owning 🙂 a middle name makes one look smart?
    I have no middle name so how is it gonna play out? How am I gonna pull smart with no middle name. Apparently ,it is as important as any part of it. With no middle name, interviewer may not take me seriously and more importantly girls call me phoney. 🙂
    Between you and me , when it comes to women ,I pretty much running the risk either way. :))
    Man ,who would think looking smart is so frigging hard.

    Pete * T
    Well, I figured asterisk is as good middle name as any.
    Could I be more wrong 🙂

    By now

  3. Thiago Messias says:

    Interesting..I love this session!

  4. peter says:

    Looks creepy indeed Dan
    But ,the way I see it , it could be the silhouette of either a goofy guy or a guy with a bad hair day 🙂
    Or perhaps it is the silhouette of a woman with disarray ,messy hair.
    Or a girl who just woke up with tons of cowlicks and messy bangs ????:)))))
    I like my last assumption best !!!!

  5. Dan says:

    Hi. Me again.
    I was thinking that maybe the best way of looking smart, is being aware of the fact that we all act stupid sometimes and that it is normal.
    I think that keeping that in the back of our mind helps.
    One more thing that helps in my opinion is always be sincere and tell the truth.


  6. soran says:

    please someone help me immediatly find correct meaning for “empathic identification” in (if anything, empathic identification between judges and judged has become more difficult since the Enlightenment)
    i’m waiting here

  7. Dan says:

    I just remembered where I saw that scary icon.

    Look for Head of Medusa by Caravaggio. It’s a beautiful painting worth watching.

  8. Dan says:

    Hey Soran.

    I do not know what you are talking about. I have never heard those two words put together.

    It probably has the same meaning as putting yourself into other’s people shoes.
    You feel empathy for another person and you identify with that person, I guess.


  9. soran says:

    Hey Dan

  10. Amin says:

    Hi there.
    Thank you for the informative article.It is really interesting and useful.
    I read somewhere that when you meet someone for the first time you have like 20 seconds to make a good first impression,so next time you meet someone for the fist time;whether it’s a date or a job interview try to remember and use this new findings that the article mentioned(like Dr. MaQuillan did and signed his name using the initial of his middle name,smart guy).

    Thank you and your wonderful team.Please keep up the good job.
    Amin M. Pourabbasi

  11. Dan says:

    Hello Jeff.

    I am not very smart, I am probably average on that department, but when I look and hear about that sterile debate going on over there
    about not selling cakes or flowers to same sex couples, you know what?
    Compared to those people I feel like I am a genius!
    How stupid and backward is that!?


  12. HILARIO says:


    Seen from the perspective vice versa has to be a logical symmetry to detect a stupid person in a similar situation, if we know that that person is hiding. If you wear sunglasses while speaking I do not like it and if you think you know everything either. I prefer the relativity of things.

    The last part can be summarized in gentleness and clarity of exposition. Best stews are made in taverns corner, where the treatment is gentle and they think before they speak when they say what they think.

    By the way, could someone out there shall tell me how the English language discerns in concern of short term sharp, and somehow opportunistic people from those authentic clever and empathetic ones?

    They came our land and said: close your eyes and pray to the almighty, and when we opened the eyes, the land was theirs.

  13. HILARIO says:

    Of course, someone to appear smart and being smart are not the same thing.

    To be smartass is nothing about or related to possess soundness cleverness. If you aren’t a very cute guy, you can perfectly be intelligent to survive situation, if you´re not having and showing happiness you can´t say you´re wise, and neither if you´re not having a developed sense for humor, no matter if intelligence or not, eventually, your talent comes out the other person will probably notice it and figure it out.

    But for now, don´t put on those colored glasses, don´t sit up as you have swallowed a straight stick, and quite you have been staring at me in that uncomfortable way. I should never recruit a person like that -even less I would accept a second romantic round after the terrific for me first round that I had already had which turned out enough.

    Only stupid people confuse the price and value, time has no affordable value for us because we can´t buy it as item, and the opportunity cost always exists.

  14. emiliano says:

    Ja, ja, ja

    That´s an incredible subject Jeff, may be if you are looking for a job it could be good to be informed about what is the best way of
    giving a good look of yourself, but in our daily way of living it is somehow a stupid matter that makes me laugh.
    I am what I am and have not to figure as a smart person if I am not.

    i do think we could be smart for some things, but for other we could be really stupid. In fact that´s for me, smart to remember or talk about
    movies, books or music, even to remember faces but for subjects I am not interested or can be out of the way I could be and look as
    a really stupid person.

    So, Jeff, let me laugh again about all of this.

    It could be I am an old person already? or even a retired man than pass through near everything, doing more or less like I am pleased
    to do?. Yes, I do think so.

    Years ago if emiliano was a person than doesn´t care about the opinion of people I have not any interest, now it is a feeling stronger.

    So look smart? What for?

    My best to you dear friend and professor Jeff, I don´t know if you are or not smart but I don´t care and I like you really very much.


  15. emiliano says:

    Soran, interesting question you have written here.
    My curiosity has been great and I have read a lot about the subject in the

    It is not fair to transcribre the subject I have read but I do think you can
    see the answer of your question the same way I have done.

    Again, it is very very interesting.
    Thank you Soran.


  16. Tania says:

    Hi! How to look smart even if you’re stupid? A serious theme.
    For a short period of time you can look very smart even if you are not.
    Many women love at first sight: he is tall, with an acceptable vocabulary, with acceptable clothes, maybe a good car…but in fact he is a jerk.
    You know a man after many years living together. And you are wondering how is it possible? Is that him?

  17. Tania says:

    Hi! Difficult at a job interview…
    Your hair, your clothes are important. Not too cheap, not very expensive , but proper for an interview . Anyone can see how much you can afford for them.
    Don’t be conceited! Having a self-confident expression, using a pleasant and clear language and a professional vocabulary,
    with an adequate answer at the question “What are your strengths?”…maybe you will win.

  18. richardtung says:

    it is nessesary to make you look like smart , but being a smart man when you are doing something. Of course, you meed to do somethings to show other person that you are respect to them and serious to treat them. Being youeself what you are. Or eventually the other person will figure out who you are. Don’t cheat yourself.

  19. reza says:

    wow awesome that really helped

  20. emiliano says:

    From my “desembuches” blog a year ago.
    I have just seen it and l want to share with you here.


    There is a good, very good Blog in the ESL podcast site where we, the English students can write which ever subject we like.
    It could be about the theme that is suggested by our teachers, Jeff, Lucy or Warren, but it could be
    also about other subjects pupils could suggest or write.

    Just here there is an example of what I have written this morning.

    Theme:WHAT MAKES US HAPPY? It has been Warren, our profesor who suggest the theme and some of us have written some replies:

    If you want to read what Warren has written, and the pupils thoughts, just see the web site:

    My thougts of this morning, personal thoughts of course, has been those:

    “Good Saturday Warren and every one of you friends of the Blog.
    In this moment I don´t know if there are more replies on the air or only there are the tree I could see now.
    Well in the air there are at least two from emiliano that are awaiting moderation from yesterday….ja,ja, yes it is a long time to moderate.
    It seems to me Jeff or Lucy have a lot of things to do, just Reading every one of the notes and moderate them. Hard work my friends.
    Having time enough to write, again I doing them a Little more work to moderate, sorry dear teachers.
    Thinking about the topic Warren has done to us now I have asked myself now: What makes you happy now emiliano?.
    Just today it is simple, First of all “I have not depression as I had last year”…the lack of it makes me feel happy despite there are reasons
    to feel not so happy, of course.
    But first I want to think about what make me to be happy now.
    Reasons to be happy:

    First lack of depression, as last year I had one, a very bad year.
    First too, I have here at my side dear Cuca 43 years together and still loving each other.
    First also, my daughters are good, I suppose as there is a long time without news from two of them.

    Second I have a house and money enough to be relaxed and live more or less well
    Second I have my cat gatufo
    Second too I have a nice woman that comes home every day to help me with house chores and taken care of Cuca so I am more relaxed
    Second too my daughter E… writes every morning, all days since 12 years, to her mami Cuca and both of them are happy with their mails.

    Third I have lot of time free to write, to read or listen to music, but I could also to take a walk but going alone in a big city like Madrid
    it is not an attractive option. I would like to go with my wife or to be other place to see the sea or the montains, this city is too much seen
    for me. All my life here……
    Third too I have still some good friends since a long long time that use to come home to see us frequently.
    Reasons to be not so happy:
    My dear friend C……. is really too bad, it seems she can´t fight to recover herself from the cáncer, but hope is the last feeling to be lost
    Dear Cuca has a disease without any hope since more than twelf years, but she resist a day after another and her humor is good enough to survive and even be happy.
    Not any news from my younger two daughters F.. and L..
    F…. is living in Madrid but never call us, never comes and the last message she sent me was saying “please let me stay in peace”.
    A year and a half without seeing her, it is too hard for me or her mother. But I hope she is well enought…cross my fingers.

    L… is in Copenhaguen and got ungry with me (or even her mother) for something so stupid as political questions or subjects. The result some months without news also, but again I think she is all right doing the work she likes more.
    So, put the reasons on the balance and wich will be the result?
    Well, I do think the resons to be happy weight just more than the others. In fact nothing wrong is happening so yes, now I feel happy.
    The worst, but usual already, it is Cuca has multiple sclerosis without hopes to be right, but it is her, our, usual state of things for more than twelve years.
    Even the worst it is our dear C….. seems to be really bad, I can´t accustomed to this bad situation, bad after nine months thinking on her a day after another it seems it is too real.
    These morning, when I don´t see any new comments on the ESL Blog, these are my thoughts.
    Thank you to all who has the patience of reading thil long statement that some how gives me some peace. It is said that writing own thoughts or painting it is the best self therapy.
    Thanks my friends”.
    If you like to see the ESL Blog it is very easy, and you could have also free lesson in this site, my site for the last eight years.
    Go ahead friends…..and be happy.


    What I could say is that the post written by gatufo (my nick name) last year has received more than five hundred visits, I hope that some of them goes to see
    ESL site.


  21. Tania says:

    Hi! Talking about jobs…
    Maybe a Mary Poppins quote can help us.
    “In every job that must be done , there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and
    the job’s a game!”

  22. Tania says:

    Hi! We always have to love our job to be happy. Singing you can feel better.

    “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey
    Chim chim cher – oo

    I does what I likes and I likes what I do
    I draws what I likes and I likes what I drew.”

    Mary Poppins song

  23. Daniela says:

    hi Tania,

    i don’t think it’s so easy look smart during an interview…

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