Mind Over Matter: Why You’re Attracted To Intelligence

Updated October 5, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What is the first thing you're attracted to when you meet someone? Some people are interested in physical features, like beautiful eyes or a toned, muscular body. Others are attracted to power, wealth, or influence. Even more people are not attracted to anyone, but not asexual either. But what about someone who can engage in a lively discussion about literature or history? What about that person in a bookstore reading George Orwell? Or what about someone who can do calculus in their head? Contrary to popular belief, experiencing an initial sexual attraction to intelligence is not all that unusual. Read more to find out what's behind this phenomenon.

Want To Know Why You're Attracted To Intelligence?

Sapiosexuality Defined

It turns out that being attracted to intelligence is so common that there's a name for it. The term "sapiosexual" (which comes from the Latin root "sapio," meaning wise) has become a common way to describe one's sexual identity on dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid. The term is used similarly to other identifiers such as "pansexual" or "demisexual." A recent study found that close to one in ten people aged 18-35 are primarily attracted to intelligence in a potential romantic partner. The study’s subjects ranked intelligence as more sexually attractive than other qualities like humor, kindness, and even physical appearance.

The rising trend of the sapiosexual label seems to be most frequent among younger daters, often referred to as Millennials or Generation Y. This may be counterintuitive to common misconceptions about this generation, who may be perceived as shallow or self-absorbed. It may seem ironic that a demographic known for its love of Instagram and selfies would also redefine sexual attraction based on inner qualities rather than outer appearance, but it turns out that there are very good reasons behind this attraction to the brainiacs of this world.

Natural Selection

The reasons for attraction to intelligence have their roots in the theory of evolution and natural selection: the concept that those with the most desirable genetic traits tend to reproduce more, ensuring the long-term survival of the species. For example, gray treefrogs tend to survive longer than other kinds because their color makes them difficult to see at night. Because they survive longer, they also reproduce more. This means that over time, there will naturally be more gray treefrogs than other kinds of frogs. In this case, gray coloring is a desirable genetic trait that helps the species stick around longer.

As humans, we consider ourselves too sophisticated for this kind of primal survival mechanism. However, natural selection still affects us in ways that we're not even aware of. A study conducted at the University of Mexico in 2009 found that men with higher IQs also had healthier sperm.

Another study, conducted by a UK sex toy retailer, found that students attending elite universities also have a higher sex drive than others. This finding may indicate that high intelligence corresponds to high libido—another reason why you may subconsciously feel more attracted to brainy people. These are some examples of how sapiosexuality may have a genetic basis. But there's more to it than simple biology and primal urges. There are also conscious, rational reasons for finding intelligence attractive. Here are a few:

Intelligence Lasts Longer Than Looks

The tall guy with a full head of hair and a six-pack isn't necessarily going to look that way ten years from now. Putting aside risks of conditions like Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, our minds remain the same as we age and may even get sharper with maturity. So, as a long-term emotional investment, a person with intelligence makes a lot more sense than a person with good looks.

You'll Never Get Bored

An intelligent partner is likely to have interesting things to talk about. People who enjoy thinking and conversing are ready to engage in discussions about literature, the arts, politics, history, religion, or even pop culture. When you continue on your life's journey with an intellectually minded companion, the journey will stay interesting.

Your Partner Is a Good Problem Solver

Those with above-average intelligence are typically creative and capable of solving problems. They can think outside established norms and see different possible solutions to a problem, perhaps even with enthusiasm, and they may not give up easily on obstacles. Having a creative problem solver in your life may help you navigate difficult situations and develop your own problem-solving skill set.

Your Partner Is More Likely to Have a High Income

Statistically, people with high IQs are also higher earners. If you seek someone who will be a good provider or be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, intelligence is literally a valuable trait.

To be sure, news coverage of sapiosexuality has sparked backlash. Some believe that it represents a kind of elitism or a form of discrimination against working class people, who are less likely to attain higher education credentials. Others criticize the idea of sapiosexuality because they see it as a way of making a divisive standard that narrows down the parameters of whom individuals may be attracted to.

Despite these criticisms, the above list illustrates that dating someone with above-average intelligence may have its advantages. If you find that intelligence is attractive to you, follow your heart and seek out relationships that will be meaningful.

How to Tell if You're Attracted to Intelligence

You Get Turned on by Witty Conversation

A lively, intellectual conversation may feel almost like foreplay. You feel sexually attracted to someone who can engage with you on a deep level. You especially enjoy someone who can test or challenge you, expanding your mind and your understanding.

Want To Know Why You're Attracted To Intelligence?

You Don't Care About Other Credentials

You don’t prioritize how much money someone makes or what they look like. The surface qualities that others may find important simply don't matter. You're concerned with the inner workings of a person's mind and heart.

You Can't Stand Small Talk

You get uncomfortable and feel trapped when someone forces you to talk about trivial, mundane topics that make up many casual conversations. You would rather sit in silence and not talk at all. You yearn for deep conversations that get to the heart of issues.

Your Attraction Grows as You Know Someone Longer

You might move slowly when it comes to relationships. You enjoy getting to know someone gradually, uncovering the hidden workings of their mind. Whereas most people may feel a strong initial attraction which fades over time, you feel the opposite.

You Believe Emotional Intelligence Is Just as Important

Sapiosexuals know that "book smarts" are not the only trait of consequence. They seek someone who is agile in handling emotions, their own as well as those of others. An emotionally intelligent person can weather the ups and downs of life more easily. They also typically have more empathy, which in turn can lead to healthier, more balanced relationships.

You Value Someone Who Has Good Taste

You enjoy a partner who has their own tastes rather than just following trends. It may not even matter to you whether their taste differs from your own, just that they have a strong sense of what they like. Whether regarding music, fashion, or food, you enjoy the company of someone who doesn't mind expressing interests that make them stand out from the crowd.

You Can't Stand People Who React to Situations in a Graceless or Irrational Way

Few things turn you off as much as an impulsive, over-the-top reaction to a difficult situation. You're attracted to people who keep their cool, maintaining poise when confronted with new and challenging situations.

An attraction to intelligence may be difficult for some people to understand, but trust that you know your own heart and mind when it comes to attraction. If you think you might be a sapiosexual, keep in mind that it is all about appreciating inner strengths, and that's an attraction that can stand the test of time.

Remember that being attracted to intelligence may be only one component of your ideal relationship, and you do not have to compromise what you value in order to find your partner. However, recognizing sapiosexuality in yourself might mean that you feel there is a more limited dating pool for you, and that can be a frustrating realization. If you are struggling to find the right partner or have other questions, you might find it helpful to consult with a therapist through a service like BetterHelp.

Discreet, flexible online counseling through BetterHelp can guide you through addressing your feelings and hopes for your relationships, romantic and otherwise. A licensed mental health professional can meet with you on your schedule and in the format you prefer: video chats, phone calls, emails, or text messages. You won’t need to take time out of your day to attend an in-person appointment but instead can receive guidance and support from the comfort of your own home. You deserve to find a fulfilling relationship, and BetterHelp can support you on your quest. These BetterHelp users have found support for their relationships through online therapy, too:

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Kathleen and I have been working together for a few months. I had been skeptical of therapy but decided to give it a try because I felt I really needed the guidance and help from a professional. Kathleen has been extremely supportive through the difficult time I have been going through. I feel very comfortable discussing my issues with her and she always has insight that helps propel me forward on my journey in life. I highly recommend her to anyone who needs help with relationships, both romantic and familial. I am thankful I was paired with Kathleen. 

"It's like having a completely unbiased friend who never tires of hearing me out and never tires of helping me sift through the stories I tell myself. Julie has helped me see a lot of things in my life and in my relationships that I would never have seen without her insights."


Being attracted to intelligence is nothing to feel weird about - it's much more common than you may think. A truly fulfilling relationship is possible - all you need are the right tools to get there. Take the first step today.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

What is a sapiosexual and a demisexual?
Why do I find intelligence so attractive?
What do you call a person who is attracted to intelligence?
What is a Sapiophile?
What does Lithsexual mean?
What is Demipansexual?
What do intelligent guys like in a girl?
Is it better to be attractive or intelligent?
What zodiac signs are sapiosexual?
What is the opposite of Sapiophile?

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