5 differences between being Smart and being Clever

5 differences between being Smart and being Clever

Intelligence is based on gaining knowledge, while someone who is smart shines for their shrewdness and immediacy when it comes to acting. Let’s look at the differences between being smart and being clever.

Intelligence often conceived of on the earthly plane as a wise, expert, and educated person is almost solely confined to humans. It is believed that intelligence is something that develops from the moment of birth to old age since humans never stop learning and establishing neuronal synapses, although the critical time for this is the first years after birth.

In any case, ethology, the branch of biology that studies non-human animal behavior, increasingly challenges the rule that intelligence is something reserved only for the species Homo sapiens. As we will see in the following lines, the differences between being intelligent and being smart go far beyond humans, even beyond the hominid group. Don’t miss it.

So, what are the differences between being smart and being smart?

1. Being smart implies a more instinctive connotation than being intelligent.

Before breaking down the two terms, let’s look at their definitions. Intelligence is a much more complex concept to approach, but even if we err on the side of reductionism, it can be described as the individual’s ability to understand, solve problems, know, and exhibit skill, ability, and experience. In more general terms, it is conceived as the ability to receive information and retain it in the form of long-term knowledge.

On the other hand, being smart refers to a much simpler human construct. According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, a smart person is shrewd, shrewd, alert, alert, prepared, diligent, and experienced, among other things.

As you can see, a smart person is one who is able to process information, retain it in the form of knowledge and apply it in the most effective way possible. On the other hand, a smart person is one who is quick to deal with different life situations. Simply put, intelligence is more directed towards theoretical knowledge, while being smart focuses on a more practical day-to-day sense.

2. There are many types of intelligence, but there are no classifications for the smart ones.

The psychologist Howard Gardner, alive today, postulated in 1983 what is known today as the “theory of multiple intelligences”, which explores the different types and abilities derived from this capacity for perception/comprehension/application. According to this thinker, intelligence can be divided into the following fronts:

  • Linguistic-verbal: greater dexterity in writing, reading, speaking, and multimodal communication.
  • Spatial: spatial cognition, facility for working with objects, visual arts, and navigation in the three-dimensional environment.
  • Musical: emphasizes musical perception, linking music with emotions, and music production.
  • Kinesthetic: enhanced perception of the body, its harmony, and movement.
  • Naturalistic: recognition of patterns in the natural environment, as well as an understanding of ecosystems, their parts, and functioning.
  • Logical-mathematical: the concept most often associated with traditional intelligence, reasoning, numbers, and complex problem-solving.

We could cite up to 6 more types of intelligence (a total of 12 as of today), but we think the idea is pretty clear. Being smart implies responding quickly to life situations, while intelligence is composed of many variants applied to different fields. However, it should be noted that not all professionals agree with Gardner’s classification.

3. Other animals may be intelligent, but not smart

Adjectives such as “alert”, “cunning”, “quick” or “shrewd” are not applicable in the animal kingdom, since all these concepts are encompassed in a much more primal reality: fitness or biological aptitude. It does not occur to us to say that an animal is shrewd, but rather that it is faster than the rest because of its muscular constitution and, therefore, is capable of outrunning its predators and competitors.

Intelligence, on the other hand, conceived as the perception of oneself and the capacity to know and solve problems, has been demonstrated in other living beings beyond humans, even outside of hominids. To date, intelligence is being studied in cetaceans, elephants, and primates, although the field is also being extended to dogs, cats, raccoons, rodents, birds (psittacines), and corvids.

Put more simply, an animal can never be smarter (but fitter), since the abilities that are conceived within this quality are those that explain a species’ own individual biological fitness. On the other hand, certain species could become intelligent, since this entails self-perception, knowledge, preservation of information, and even culture. Since some of these traits escape pure natural selection, they offer a much more interesting field of research.

4. The purpose and the path are different in each train of thought.

As we have already established, a smart person seeks efficiency over understanding and knowledge. Thus, a smart person will try to maximize his or her actions to achieve the desired goal but does not necessarily need to understand the mechanisms underlying each behavior and consequence.

On the other hand, intelligence is characterized by wanting to understand, regardless of whether the result takes more or less time to arrive. The most logical and rational course of action is sought, regardless of whether it is the most effective. Emotional control and pragmatism define intelligent people, while shrewdness and intuition are much more typical of smart ones.

5. Being smart tends to have a more practical focus than being intelligent.

A smart, astute, and lively person is also often charming and knows how to integrate into group dynamics without problems. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, it can be speculated that smart people, in general, have more emotional intelligence than those who are intelligent in general.

If we recover Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences, we will see that some of the last postulated types of intelligence are intrapersonal and interpersonal, i.e., the ability to understand oneself and master one’s own emotions, but also to know how to apply one’s qualities in a specific context. In other words, a person with logical-mathematical intelligence (typical intelligence) does not necessarily have social skills; in fact, this is not usually the case.

There are many, many examples of intelligent people who have not shone for their social skills, from H.P. Lovecraft to Newton and many other contemporary personalities. Sometimes smart people focus on studies and data, forgetting the feelings and emotions of others. On the other hand, smart people know how to “read the room” better, even if they have not learned the theory.


The differences between being intelligent and being smart can be concentrated in a single idea: being smart is a trait that epitomizes intuition, while intelligence reflects the search for knowledge and its understanding in all possible facets. One wants to apply, the other to reason. They are two sides of the same coin because there is little point in being the smartest person in the world if you are not able to convey your ideas to others, right?

The ideal is always to be smart and intelligent in equal parts: to want to know tirelessly, but also to know how to transmit and apply it on a day-to-day basis, beyond theoretical constructs. In any case, both types of people are equally essential in society, because not everything is based on theories, but action without theoretical foundations is impossible.

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