1. Do intelligent people really live longer?

Yes, but it seems that IQ only makes a small difference to how long we live. (For geeky people: the correlation is .12)

Researchers are still working on the explanation. It may simply be that intelligent people are more likely to understand and act on advice on healthy living. But research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that most of the difference comes down to our luck in the genetic lottery. In other words, you'll live longer than average because Nature has given you both more intelligence than average and better health. (We're dishing out the flattery today.)

2. Is it true that people who have suffered more hardships in life are more compassionate?

Yes. You may have come across people who say 'I made it through hard times why can't they?' but that's less usual. The research shows that the more hardship people have suffered the more compassionate they tend to be.

3. Which of these people are unlikely to believe they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average citizen? A) Plumbers B) Doctors C) Prisoners in jail D) Skydivers E) None of those

E) None of those. A study published in The British Journal of Social Psychology reveals that even prisoners in jail believe they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average citizen. It’s a striking example of the ‘better-than-average effect’. Believing that we are better than average is both healthy and normal. It keeps us optimistic, but can make us resistant to learning.

The prisoners didn’t think they were more law-abiding. On that issue they thought they were about the same as an average member of the community.

4. How true is the statement ‘The English language has a word for anything we want to say’?

Mostly true. English has ‘borrowed’ so many words from other languages that we can express most ideas with precision and subtlety.

There are exceptions. Tim Lomas from the University of East London has found 216 words in other languages that don’t have an equivalent single word in English. Does that matter? Judge for yourself how much we need these words.

Nakama (Japan) Friends who are considered family

Gigil (Philippines) The irresistible urge to pinch or squeeze someone because you love them so much

Schnapsidee (Germany) Coming up with an ingenious plan while drunk

Menschlichkeit (Israel) Being a good human being in its fullest sense


5. Do the subjects people choose to study really tell you anything about their personalities?

It seems so. Anna Videl has sampled more than 13,000 American students and found that psychology, arts and humanities students tend to be friendlier than other students, but also more neurotic. Students who choose politics, medicine and economics tend to be more extroverted, but also less friendly.

6. In job interviews, is it true that the first impressions count the most?

Yes. Even with experienced but untrained interviewers.

Job interviews have become much more structured over the last few years, but it seems that the small talk before the questions about the job still makes a big difference.

Until recently there was very little evidence that the first few minutes counted as much as people say. Now a study reported in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that the first few minutes can decide the outcome. Some of the influence may be irrelevant to the job – including our physical appearance, body language and voice.

7. Is it true that mimicking another person’s words and gestures helps to build rapport?

Yes. There have been several studies to confirm the effect. For instance, researchers have asked women on speed dates to match words such as ‘You really do that?’ with ‘Yes, I really do that’, not just ‘Yes’. If the prospective date scratched his face, the women would wait a few seconds and do the same. They were the chosen ones at the end of the speed date.

Even so, mimicking is risky. If your mimicry is too obvious you’ll be seen as a manipulator.

A better strategy? Focus intently on the other person’s words and emotions. You’ll be a genuine listener and probably mimicking unconsciously before long anyway.