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People Who Worry All The Time May Have a Surprising Advantage

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While worrywarts generally have to live with more stress, recent research indicates one of the tradeoffs may be higher intelligence.

For their study published late last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, Alexander Penny and a team of his Lakehead University colleagues assessed the moods, anxiety levels and intelligence, among other variables, of 126 student participants.

After controlling for mood and test anxiety — as opposed to trait anxiety — the researchers found that there was a correlation between how much an individual generally worried, as determined through the Cognitive Test Anxiety Scale, and their verbal intelligence, based on their results from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.

Those who possess higher verbal intelligence have better reading and writing skills as well as verbal reasoning skills.

The study doesn’t offer all good news for worriers though. Penny and his team also found a negative correlation between the tendency to dwell on past events and non-verbal intelligence.

An individual with high non-verbal intelligence is better at hands-on skills and can more quickly solve problems and process cues that are based in language.

“It is possible that more verbally intelligent individuals are able to consider past and future events in greater detail, leading to more intense rumination and worry,” Penny and his team explains. “Individuals with higher non-verbal intelligence may be stronger at processing the non-verbal signals from individuals they interact with in the moment, leading to a decreased need to re-process past social encounters.”

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