1. Which of these would improve your concentration?  A) Meditation  B) Exercise   C) A nature walk   D) All of them

D) All of them. And you can add avoiding multi-tasking (and of course distractions) to the list. Your brain can’t truly multi-task. It can only switch back and forth from one task to another with catch-up time in-between.

Want something quirky? The nature walk can be in a virtual sense – like looking at pictures of nature on Google Images. A walk around the block or in the suburbs won’t do anything for your concentration. You have to encounter the green stuff.

2. Let’s say your match is tied and it’s up to you to take the kick. Which would be the better strategy?   A) Rely on muscle-memory and take the kick as soon as possible   B) Take the time you need.

B) Take the time you need. (Well, not too long, the TV audience of millions is waiting.) Rushing just decreases your chance of success. A recent analysis showed that players who took the kick almost immediately after the ref’s whistle were 57 per cent successful on average. Those who took more than a second were 80 per cent successful.

3. If your flatmate was very distressed, but didn’t tell you, should you be confident that you would know anyway?

Not according to the latest evidence. A study of roommates in an American university hostel showed that they underestimated each other’s distress. Gender and the closeness of their relationships made no difference. The same study found that many of those who reported that their roommates had been significantly distressed over the previous six weeks were exaggerating the actual distress.

4. Which of these is likely to keep your granny’s mind sharp?   A) Regular crosswords   B) A university course   C) Both

B) A university course. The crosswords are not complex enough to make much difference. Australian research published a couple of years ago reported significant benefits from at least a year of university study.

5. Does caffeine help us think better?

Yes – for a couple of tasks anyway. Recent studies in China and the U.S. have revealed that the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee does help our brains process unpredictable events and complex information.

6. Which activities could improve your brainpower at work?   A) Music   B) Chess   C) Memory games    D) None of those   E) All of those

D) None of those. The current evidence suggests that spending time on music, chess and memory games just makes us better at music, chess and memory games. If we want skills we can use at work, we have to focus on those skills, or something closely related.

7. Which single question is most likely to reveal whether someone is a narcissist?

‘To what extent do you agree with this statement: I am a narcissist? (Narcissist means egotistical, self-centred and vain.)' You need those exact words - including the explanation in brackets.

Researchers have found that the results of that one question match other measures of narcissism involving many questions.

Why don’t narcissists just deny they are narcissistic? A co-author of the study, Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University, says they don’t see being narcissistic as a negative. Narcissists believe they are superior to other people and have no problem saying so.


Ready for another quiz? Our archive has plenty more questions about human behaviour and emotions. (It's work really.)

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