1. Is it possible to learn by playing recorded messages while you sleep?
Yes, but not much. Despite what you might see on the web, researchers don't recognise hypnopedia as it's called, as an effective way to learn. It's not that the jury is out. The jurors went home and lost interest after the mid-1960s. Earlier researchers found some evidence that hearing a taped message did improve recall, but it was low-level learning. You're unlikely to earn a Phd in physics learning that way.
2. Rate the advice: 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. A) True B) Ridiculous C) Partly true
C) Partly true. The research shows that exposure to everyday stress, challenge and disappointment can have an inoculating effect, so that we are more resilient when something worse comes along. Some people even emerge from major disasters with 'post-traumatic growth'.
Even so, we shouldn't assume that stress makes everyone stronger. We need a range of resilience skills, support from others and even a bit of luck in the genetic lottery.
3. True or false? 'Positive emotions wipe out negative.'
False. Being happy doesn't mean never feeling sad. The two emotions can exist together, though we feel them at different times. If, for instance, we have serious disease, it's normal to have positive thoughts and hope mixed up with fear. It's all part of the process of getting our heads around the situation.
4. Which would be best for your health? A) Watching your netball team win B) Buying the house you really want C) Volunteering to help at your community youth group
C) Volunteering to help at your community youth group. They are all likely to contribute to your mental and physical health, but psychologists distinguish between short-term fizzy feelings and the life-satisfaction that comes with helping others. Helping others in ways that give our lives meaning and purpose is the most beneficial at a cellular level.
So how do your cells know what's making you happy? They don't, but Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina thinks it's the social rewards from helping others that keep our immune systems healthy. When we focus on our own pleasures too much, she says, 'our immune systems gear up for the same immune threats we'd encounter if we were lonely or otherwise socially isolated'.
5. Which is the happier sex?
Women. But they are also sadder than men. About twice as many women are treated for depression (and not just because they are more willing to ask for help).
6. True or false? 'Staying optimistic when you have serious illness helps your body fight the illness.'
True. It's one of those assumptions that check out. Having optimistic beliefs helps ensure that we follow medical advice and also boosts the immune system.
7. Rate the advice: 'Think positive thoughts because you attract what you think about the most'. A) So true B) Too simplistic
B) Too simplistic. It's the key idea behind Rhonda Byrne's best-selling book and the film The Secret. It might sound plausible, but it's regularly ridiculed by researchers.
Having a generally positive outlook does keep us motivated and healthy, but trying to exclude negative thoughts so that we are constantly thinking positively is not realistic or helpful.
It's action towards our goals that acounts.