14 Signs Of Pseudo-Intellectual Person (2024)

Want to know if you’re dealing with a pseudo-intellectual? They’re actually really easy to spot once you know how.

Below, you’ll discover what a pseudo-intellectual is, how to spot one, how to deal with one, plus the answers to many frequently asked questions about pseudo-intellectuals.

In my role as a life coach, I am often helping clients better understand themselves and the people closest to them. 

That’s why I’m excited to share this guide with you.

So, let’s dive in.  

What Is A Pseudo-Intellectual?

Put simply, a pseudo-intellectual is someone who puts significant effort into appearing clever, without actually having a lot of intelligence or knowledge.

Pseudo-Intellectual Signs

Now that we’re clear what a pseudo-intellectual is, let’s take a look at 14 signs to help you spot them.

1. They Share Knowledge To Impress People, Not Inform Them

Have you ever noticed a person sharing knowledge when it wasn’t really asked for. In such cases, this person is probably interested in impressing you with their intelligence, rather than informing you. This is a telltale sign of a pseudo-intellectual.

2. They Mention How Intelligent They Are

Real intellectuals would never feel the need to brag about their intelligence. It’s the same way that the world’s wealthiest people don’t tend to wear designer labels, and the world’s biggest successes don’t brag about their awards.

It’s only the fakers or the intermediates who feel the need to claim that they’re among the best in the world.  

3. They Always Think They’re Right

They also have to let everyone else know that they’re right, even in completely trivial conversations. They start arguments even though this creates conflict and generally lowers the vibe in a social interaction, because being right is more important to them than sharing fun. 

4. They’re Quick To Have An Opinion

A pseudo-intellectual’s desire to always be right often leads them to quickly develop an opinion on any subject. Rather than admit they don’t know enough about a subject to have an opinion, they’ll choose an opinion and defend it ferociously.

Intellectuals will be happy to delay their opinion, if it means they can make an informed decision based on research later on. 

5. They Interrupt Others 

Not only are they quick to develop an opinion, pseudo-intellectuals tend to be rapid at sharing it with the world. Rather than digest someone’s point, they’ll usually prefer to interrupt them to share their ideas on the topic.   

6. They’ll Inject Their Intelligence Unnecessarily

Have you ever been having a fun and casual conversation, only for someone to derail it by  inputting all the interesting facts they know about the subject. The chances are that person is a pseudo-intellectual too. These people will take any opportunity to show off their knowledge even when it’s inappropriate.

7. They Change The Subject 

If a conversation isn’t on a topic they know a lot about, they’ll try and change it. Even if the group is having amazing fun talking about reality TV, the pseudo-intellectual will probably start pushing for a debate about religion, philosophy, education, history, culture, politics or whatever else, even if there is no context in the existing conversation. 

If your friend constantly has the desire to discuss irrelevant ideologies and inappropriate topics even when no-one is interested in doing so, there’s a great chance they’re a pseudo-intellectual.  

8. They Have No Intellectual Pursuits 

The word ‘intellectual’ is usually reserved for someone heavily involved in academics or some other pursuit of knowledge. If your friend is trying to show off his intelligence, despite having put no hard work into such a pursuit, there’s a good chance they’re a pseudo-intellectual.

9. They Surround Themselves With Less Intelligent People 

They do this because they get off on supposedly being the smartest person in the room. A genuine intellectual would prefer to surround themselves with smarter people, so they could learn from them.

10. They Don’t Listen To Others’ Opinions   

Real intellectuals understand that listening to other people’s thoughts is the best way to boost their knowledge on a topic. Pseudo-intellectuals don’t do this, because they’re too scared to lose their self-image of being someone who already has all the answers.

The truth is: these people often have no interest or understanding of the other side of an argument, because they don’t listen to it in the first place. 

If you’re lucky enough to make even one point in a debate, the pseudo-intellectual is probably too busy formulating their answer to actually hear your arguments.   

11. They Give Answers Instead Of Asking Questions

Truly smart people ask questions because they want to learn more. Pseudo-intellectuals give answers because they want the world to see much they already know.

Pseudo Intellectual
Photo By benzoix On freepik

12. They Use Big Words Unnecessarily

To seek out a pseudo-intellectual, focus on their use of language. These people will use complicated words all the time as another subtle way to make it clear how smart they are. They’ll also correct people’s grammar, despite this being well-known as a fantastic way to annoy people.

13. They Frequently Describe People Based On Their Intelligence

Whether they think someone is smart or stupid, you better believe they’ll mention it. Any personal attacks they make will usually be based on someone’s intelligence too.    

14. They Won’t Admit When They’re Wrong

Pseudo-intellectuals have an uncanny ability to never give up in an argument. Even if they are proved incorrect (which is easier to do than ever thanks to modern technology), they’ll defend their opinion furiously.

This form of ‘tunnel vision’ is another universally despised personality trait, but winning an argument is that important to these people. The absolute truth isn’t as important as looking smart in front of their friends. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Pseudo-Intellectuals

Let’s round off this article by answering some frequently asked questions about pseudo-intellectuals.

What Does The Word Pseudo Mean?

This prefix is added to words to mean ‘fake’, ‘false’ or ‘phoney’. More accurately, it is taken to mean: fake, but trying to pass off as the real thing. You may have also heard of pseudo-science, a pseudo illness or a pseudonym.

Am I A Pseudo-Intellectual?

Pseudo-intellectuals are rarely humble enough to question themselves in this way. So, if you’re pondering this question, the odds are you’re not a pseudo-intellectual. Good for you.  

How Do You Know If You Have A Pseudo-Intellectual?

You don’t really have to do anything to out a pseudo-intellectual. Stay in a conversation with them long enough and they’ll usually out themselves by showing one or more of the 14 telltale signs listed above.

How Can Pseudo-Intellectualism Be Prevented?

A good start would be to question why you want to prove your intelligence so badly. This is often a symptom of poor self-esteem. I have written a guide packed with ideas to boost your self-esteem, which are arguably far healthier than proving you’re smarter than other people.

When you go out of your way to prove you’re better than others, it’s a great way to push them away from you. Socially intelligent people will realise you’re doing this to cover up some sort of insecurity, while everyone else will just think you’re an ass.

If you’re looking to try and impress people, you’re better for doing so with your humility, empathy, selflessness and desire for fun.

Related Article: Signs Your Friend Doesn’t Respect You    

How To Deal With Pseudo-Intellectuals

The best way to deal with pseudo-intellectuals is to call them out. However, there is a right and wrong way to do this, assuming you want to stop this person’s annoying habits and remain friends with them.

Whenever you ‘call someone out’, it’s best to call out their behavior rather than aiming a slight at who they are as a person. 

So, instead of saying: “you are a pseudo-intellectual” or “you’re a fake smart-ass”, point out the behavior they’re doing from the list above. Soften the blow by assuring them they don’t need to act like that, because you like them regardless of how intelligent they are.

When you call out a pseudo-intellectual with a brilliant response like this, they’ll be left with no choice but to tone down their behavior (around you, at least).    

Pseudo-Intellectual vs Intellectual

Technically, an ‘intellectual’ simply means a person with a high intellect. However, this word is usually reserved for an academic or someone chasing an intellectual pursuit. A pseudo-intellectual is unlikely to meet any of these definitions, although they may try their best to convince others that they do.

Examples Of Pseudo-Intellectuals

Strangely, there aren’t many examples of pseudo-intellectuals in the public eye, even fictional characters.

However, there is a whole sub-reddit dedicated to examples of pseudo-intellectuals, called r/iamverysmart

What Is Quasi-Intellectual?

The prefix ‘quasi’ means to ‘have some resemblance to’, perhaps by showing some attributes, but not all. You might therefore use this word to describe someone in an academic job who still lacks intelligence, or anyone who you deem to be half-way between intellectual and pseudo-intellectual.

Pseudo-Intellectual Synonyms

Although you might call a pseudo-intellectual a ‘fake’, a ‘fraud’, an ‘imposter’ or a ‘phony’, there aren’t really any other terms in the dictionary to describe a fake smart person.   

Any More Questions?

Thanks for reading my guide. I hope you now have a better understanding of pseudo-intellectuals and how to deal with them.

If you have a question or would like to start a debate on this topic, feel free to leave a comment  below. I’ll do my best to answer all queries as quickly as I can.   

It would be great to continue talking about this engaging topic in the comments section.

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.