Intelligent people see the world differently than those who are less smart, or at least this is the conclusion of a study published today in Current Biology.

Whether you live in a bustling metropolis or a car-riddled suburb, our brains are constantly filtering visual information in order to navigate from place to place. The benefits of this rapid decision-making can be as simple as avoiding a bump with a stranger on a sidewalk or as complex as juggling while riding a unicycle.

This study reports that individuals with high IQ are better at ignoring visual distractions.

This is the first report to link sensory suppression to intelligence, according to the scientists from the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University who conducted the study.

The connection was made by having 71 people watch a series of videos that had vertical bars drifting left or right across a computer screen. Movies were played at different speeds, and the subjects had to quickly surmise the direction of the vertical lines' movement.

The bars came in three sizes, with the smallest being the hardest to track. "High IQers" were better at tracking the smallest bars, which suggests their brains can quickly process the tiniest packages of information.

This idea is congruent with established views that intelligence is linked to sharper visual perception and faster reflexes. "Being 'quick witted' and 'quick on the draw' generally go hand in hand," said first author Michael Melnick, a Ph.D. student at the University of Rochester.

"It is not that people with high IQ are simply better at visual perception," continued Dr. Duje Tadin, Ph.D., a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester who led the study. "Instead, their visual perception is more discriminating."

However, Melnick and his colleagues were surprised when "smarter" volunteers struggled to identify the motion of the longest vertical bars.

"There is something about the brains of high-IQ individuals that prevents them from quickly seeing large, background-like motions," Tadin added.

They found that this trait isn't due to superior focus, but rather brains with high IQ automatically suppress irrelevant background movement. This pattern isn't a deficit, according to the authors. Instead, it shows that IQ dictates whether a person can ignore bigger visual distractions.

The authors observed that IQ could be predicted by this vision trait 71 percent of the time, which is a strong correlation. They posit that this visual exercise could form the basis for a new IQ test. Current IQ tests are often criticized for cultural bias; however, the vision quirk identified in this study couldn't be regulated by the participants. Thus, it could function as an unbiased readout for intelligence.

"Because the test is simple and non-verbal, it will also help researchers better understand neural processing in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities," said co-author Loisa Bennetto, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

Try it for yourself and see how you do.

Source: Melnick MD, Harrison BR, Park S, Bennetto L, Tadin D. A Strong Interactive Link Between Sensory Discriminations And Intelligence. Current Biology. 2013.