“What’s A Sign Someone Is A Pseudo-Intellectual?” (53 Answers)

If you hear someone using big words and complicated concepts that make them sound smart, the chances are you will think of them highly. And while it’s indeed true that there are quite a few intellectual people in your social circle, the opposite is true as well.

You see, many people don’t quite have a sensitive radar when determining if a person is actually a pseudo-intellectual. Described by Merriam Webster dictionary, a pseudo-intellectual is “a person who wants to be thought of as having a lot of intelligence and knowledge but who is not really intelligent or knowledgeable.” That means they can be very, very annoying.

So when someone asked “What's a sign someone is a pseudo-intellectual?” on Ask Reddit, it resonated with people big time. Below we wrapped up some of the most interesting and illuminating answers, so scroll down!


Really intelligent people are very secure in their intelligence but fakers will most likely be trying to put others down to seem smarter.

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They like to "debate" but shut down and get angry the second they get an unexpected question or have to think about their answer.


They refuse to explain something in an easier/more understandable way when asked

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When they tell you their IQ. And it's always suspiciously high.

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Pseudo-intellectuals **love** to drop names of famous experts in the field, and will often do that in lieu of a real explanation when challenged to explain themselves.

For example, "If you're not familiar with the research of Lawrence and Krasden in this field, then it's not worth my time to educate you".

In general, pseudo-intellectuals don't like explaining concepts, because they're afraid that they'll explain the concept incorrectly and get shown up by somebody else. So they use all sorts of tactics to establish dominance, try to belittle you, and avoid giving a clearly worded explanation of their argument.

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They repeat what you already said, in a slightly different way, and act as if they're adding to the discussion.

They defensively tell people to "read a book" instead of answering a question.

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They hyper-focus on a single source of wisdom or completely ignore their opponent's perspective.

Actual intellectuals read broadly, and the best intellectuals read things they disagree with.

Edit: Talking about "read things they disagree with"... There is a difference between reading the influential works of opposing movements and browsing social media cesspools. I am disappointed that I have to clutter this post by clarifying.

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They also talk endlessly, using word salad. True experts are direct and to the point. They summarize initially and then can dive into details as needed.

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They can't say they don't know something. When pressed, they will deflect or fake their way through it. Somebody actually knowledgeable (no matter in what area) will also know the limits of their knowledge, and have the confidence to identify it when they reach it.

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They debate and don't let anyone else speak, and when someone does try to speak, the other person just talks louder and faster.

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Using a Ben Shapiro style structure to arguing a point

* Speak fast
* Construct straw men as fast as they get taken down
* Win through endurance over intellect
* Deflect, obfuscate, infuriate - Just get the other person to stop debating

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Reminds me of my mom's fiancé. Says things as if he understands the topic completely and then when gently pressed, completely crumbles and can't form coherent thoughts.

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In internet debates, the trend in the past few years was just to just say, 'I'm not reading all that' when they encounter an argument they can't counter.

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If they listen to the usual Incel Mentors: Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, or any other online troll that sees differing opinions as a debate challenge and an affront to society.

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They absolutely cannot fess up to their own mistakes.

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Making a series of discussion-worthy points about a topic. When responded to, selects one of three responses for an "auto victory" in their eyes:

1) (RARE) They see that of 6 points they raised, you only directly addressed 5, they declare you couldn't handle that extra point (even if it rested on the other 5 points being all perfectly true) and therefor they win the conversation. [This is rare because it requires them to read longer than the few words it takes to realize you disagree.]

2) (Average) They repeat what they said the first time and claim you didn't address any of their points because there is no response to them, they are objectively correct.

3) (Frequent) "Post too long bro. Not gonna read it. Clearly I'm right if you can't refute what I said in only a few words."

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They parrot talking points without being able to discuss or understand the details of their arguments. Seen it all across the political spectrum. If all you are able to communicate are Twitter-length bullet points, then there is something wrong. I’ve tried to talk with people who are like a NPC in a video game, all they can do is repeat the same 3 generic statements on a topic.

Similar to above the other sign is that their opinions are 100% exactly the same as either some person, movement, or religion. No nuance, no “shades of grey”, not even a slight disagreement on a particular point or two. Basically you have turned off your brain and someone else is thinking for you.

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They talk constantly and say nothing.

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They say "educate yourself" but don't know the difference between blind peer reviewed studies and YouTube nonsense.

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Going out of their way to not use contractions when they talk. Also identifying as "sapiosexual." I also find that pseudo-intellectuals will write messages that read more like a college essay than a casual conversation. I can see you read books, you don't have to talk to me like you're a 19th century novelist.


Intelligent people don't have to tell you they are. They probably don't even think they are. There's a reason that "all I know is I know nothing" is such a big quote in studying philosophy.


For me, it's seeing people who can't shift their beliefs/biases based on evidence

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They mention science a lot, but only in the sense of "believing the science". They think being scientific is unquestioning trust of what a scientist tells you, even when the scientist is making all sorts of excuses for why his or her predictions turned out all wrong.


use words that are rarely used in everyday life when you could use a more common word. an extra point when the meaning of that word has nothing to do with what the person wants to express.

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If they make unsubstantiated claims that they can't back up or, if they use words they don't understand in order to come across as more knowledgeable.


an intellectual entertains his opponent's views without accepting them, he puts himself in the other's shoes, and from there he figures out where it doesn't make sense, the fake intellectual doesn't seem to have that flexibility of thought.


I guess it depends on how you define intellect, but some of the smartest people I know have a very narrow band of knowledge, such as a friend who got his Ph.D. in theoretical math and works in cryptography but he knows nothing about other fields. Psuedo-intellectuals will pretend they know it all.

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Being a contrarian. Automatically disagreeing with everything you hear isn’t any smarter than than believing everything.

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They speak above their vocabulary. I'm not saying they necessarily mispronounced words, but certain words feel forced into a conversation when a better and simpler word would have fit better.


They don't validate the experiences of others, which are often backed by science or data, if they haven't been through it themselves.

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They're unwilling to provide sources/read your sources. They put more emphasis on how you said something, than the facts.

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They rarely have an original thought or original contribution to discussions. Mostly regurgitating someone else's idea or view. Pop-intellectualism like Joe Rogan.


Citing "countless examples";

Can't name one of them.


They always defend popular opinions with "extremely convinced" and a rigid mindset without doing a critical thinking ever.

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They have "free thinker" on their bios.

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The assumption that anyone who disagrees with them is doing so in bad faith.

I'd also add:

When you can guess all their opinions and almost guess word for word any argument they will make solely by knowing their ideological affiliation.

If you don't disagree with your in-group about anything then you're a f*****g simpleton.


If the only way they can explain complex or “high brow” topics (especially if they call them high brow) is using big words and not being able to use simple and concise language to make it understandable to the person they’re explaining to.
Also having to put down anything they see as “lesser” than them and their interests. I always think of Hawking talking about teenage girls who love one direction and speaking with as much fondness as his assisted communication device could portray.


They talk in such a convoluted, verbose way that you feel like you need to summarize back to them what they just said to confirm your understanding. And when you do, they respond angrily saying you are trying to put words in their mouth and they didn’t say that! Jordan Peterson comes to mind.


They use Whom incorrectly


They use IQ scores to defend their so-called “intelligence.”


After they make a claim and you ask them to show evidence for that claim, they tell you to "do your own homework."


"the definition of insanity is...."


They think holding a political opinion, or subscribing to a political ideology, they don't like is a sure sign of being a pseudo-intellectual


If they leave books lying around but not read them


An inability to acknowledge someone else is right (and they are mistaken) or someone else knows more.


Showing off about knowledge. As we say in French:

"Culture is like marmalade, the less you have the more you spread it"


Personally Attacking someone they disagree with.


When they get defensive about innacurate claims, and instead of having discussion, try to save face and manipulate the conversation into retaining the perception that they are not only intelligent, but moreso than the surrounding company.

They're just neck beards with a few books.

If you're like this it's not too late. Practice saying "I guess I was wrong."
"Thank you for showing me this."
"What's your take?"
"I don't know / I didn't know"
"This is out of my area of expertise"

Lift people up. You'll learn more and really become a full blown intellectual. You won't have to rely on appearing intelligent if you really ARE intelligent. There's a lot of respect out there for people that can admit that they were wrong when presented with new information. :)


They get annoyed when you ask questions (especially if it's because you're trying to understand what they're saying).


They refer to themselves as intellectuals above everyone else because of their intellectual ability. They're the loudest arrogant person in the room.


They watch Frasier but only laugh at the dog.


They're very, very condescending. Also they attack the person and not the idea, probably because they don't have enough information to address the idea.

E: Update typo.