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Are people with messy handwriting really smarter? No... Here's why.

By Ethan Lin

· MBTI,Personality Type

No doubt you’ve seen articles about how people with messy handwriting or messy people, in general, are smarter, more creative and so on. And they claim science backs it. Here’s one from Independent, and another from MyDomaine.

Is it true, however, that the trait of messiness is tied to intelligence?

I would like to examine it from a Personality Type perspective to help unravel and perhaps debunk what is being said. As if being neat and organised is a sign of stupidity or low intelligence!

What’s the problem with this assertion? After all, everything seems to be backed by science – an Albert Einstein, one of the smartest people ever lived is an extremely messy person. And no doubt, by your own experience, the intelligent people around you all have a trait of being slightly messier.


First, the measure of intelligence. When these articles talk about intelligence, they have assumed that there is one type of intelligence, that is the one measured with IQ tests. However, according to this article by, IQ as a test is narrow in its scope and doesn’t measure the complexity of human intelligence in its fullness. Indeed, it can even be dangerous to a person’s self-esteem, because that label sticks with them for life!

To me, the word ‘intelligence’ as defined is too narrow. It has to be broadened in its scope.

According to David Keirsey, the four key types of personalities (Guardians, Artisans, Idealists, Rationals) are strong in four types of intelligence respectively, namely – Logistical Intelligence, Tactical Intelligence, Diplomatic Intelligence, Strategic Intelligence.

Logistical intelligence is a person’s ability to plan and administrate operations. Tactical intelligence is the ability to adapt, adjust and leverage on the immediate resource. Diplomatic intelligence is the ability to connect, inspire and win people. Strategic intelligence is the ability to marshal resources toward a long-term goal.

IQ tests primarily measure Strategic Intelligence – which is the ability to see the relationship between things and find patterns. So technically, one type (the Albert Einstein type) would stand out far above the rest. And our education system pretty much supports and rewards this type of intelligence.

Does it mean that the others are not important? I don’t think so - far from it. Without those other types of intelligence, you won’t have what we see in society today. Well established institutions, entrepreneurial hustlers and inspiring leaders – all these need a different type of smarts!


Second, understanding the Sensing and Intuition dichotomy.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Sensing and Intuition are two ways of perceiving information. Sensing Types prefer to receive physical information with their senses and take things literally, or as they are. Intuitive Types prefer to go beyond the physical information and observe the relationship between things, people and events to find patterns.

Intuitive people appear more creative in a sense that they can come up with novel ideas from their rich imaginations. However, their awareness of the physical tends to be weaker. They are more likely to look messier and their things are more likely all over the place. The key reason is because their focus is usually on new ideas.

What’s more, these preferences (Sensing vs Intuition) are exclusive. When a person is using Sensing, Intuition is not being used. Vice versa. So, some people end up preferring Sensing while another end up preferring Intuition.

Intelligence, as known by most people, is actually just the Intuitive preference.

But it’s important to recognise that Sensing Types are just as intelligent, just not in the way that people perceive intelligence. For example, is the ability to have heightened awareness of the physical environment a form of intelligence? Arguably it could be. Or is the ability to accurately recall and record numbers another form of intelligence? To me, it is. (because I’m terrible at it!)

In the end, it’s all about how people choose to use their energy. If a person uses their energy to focus on the details (like proper handwriting or table organisation), then they won’t have the energy to Intuit. The other way round is true too.


So, are people with messy handwriting more intelligent? They are - if all intelligence to be strategic intelligence. They are - if Intuition as a ‘smarter’ way of thinking than Sensing.

I think the study needs improving if it wants to be accurate. If it wants to make such a statement, it has to contextualise what it means by intelligence.

If not, they’re going to end up making a world bunch of people who are neat and tidy think they are less intelligent. The truth is, I respect these people a lot and value them on my team – without them, things only work in my head, and nothing works in real life!

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