1. A friend looks sad today. Would she feel better if she told you she is sad, or would expressing out loud how she is feeling  only make things worse?

She is more likely to feel better if she tells you - or even writes you a note.

Psychologists call it ‘affect labelling’ (affect is their word for emotion). Being explicit about our feelings seems to reduce their intensity.

In a study published in Nature Human Behaviour researchers reported analysing more than a billion tweets looking for patterns before and after words such as ‘I feel...’. Hundreds of other studies have shown that expressing our emotions in writing is therapeutic for just about anything emotional, including serious stuff like PTSD.

One leading researcher has found that writing about our emotions even improves our physical health.

2. Are psychopaths attracted to other psychopaths?

Yes. ‘Like attracts like’ even applies to psychopaths.

Not all psychopaths are killers or even law-breakers and it’s a sliding scale. Look out for people who combine callousness, impulsivity, self-centredness and the ability to take advantage of other people with no remorse.

Do those characteristics make psychopaths seem unloveable? Ted Bundy, who confessed to murdering 30 women and girls in the 1970s, is one of many prisoners with psychopathic traits who have received multiple offers of marriage after their convictions.

3. Is social media good for your health?

The picture is a bit mixed, but a recent study suggests we should be careful with social media. Researchers at the University of California found that over three years Facebook users were less healthy than people who had more face-to-face relationships. Facebook users reported lower physical and mental health, less satisfaction with life and a higher body mass index (a measure of weight Vs height). It’s probably the same for people who exchange tweets or post on Instagram instead of meeting for a coffee.

4. Which of these parts of our brain allows us to control our emotions?  A) Amygdala   B) Pre-frontal cortex   C) Cerebellum

B) Pre-frontal cortex  If you have your hand on your forehead, you are almost touching it. It’s sometimes referred to as our brain’s executive centre. If someone criticises us, a mature pre-frontal cortex stops us lashing out and we might say, ‘Tell me more about that’.

5. Let’s say you are Goal Shoot for the Silver Ferns against Australia. The scores are even and in the last one minute of the game you have a chance to ensure a victory for New Zealand. What’s the best way to stop yourself choking under pressure?

Imagine your team already has enough points to win. Your goal will simply make it even more difficult for Australia to snatch victory in the remaining seconds. Sound a bit too simplistic?

A new study reported by the British Psychological Society has shown a dramatic reduction in choking when subjects imagine that they have already won a prize and are motivated to avoid losing it. The researchers did brain scans and could see the effects of playing to avoid loss and playing to win on the subjects’ ventral striatum. Subjects who were playing to avoid loss were less stressed too.
6. How much of your happiness is likely to depend on your relationships?  A) 3 per cent   B) 10 per cent   C) 70 per cent

C) 70 per cent  To quote researchers at Harvard: ‘The capacity to love and be loved is a strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at 80’. Two other studies running for generations have found the same link between relationships and happiness.

But wait there’s more. Other research shows that not having strong relationships shortens lives. It’s equivalent to the risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

7. Which is more accurate?   A) ‘Success brings happiness.’   B) ‘Happiness brings success’

B) ‘Happiness brings success.’ It’s not the way most people think, but the evidence is clear. While we do feel happier when we succeed, most of us just set a higher goal and believe we’ll be happy when we achieve that one. Happy people achieve more over time, especially when they combine their happiness with realistic optimism.

Want another quiz - from the archive?

Ready for more? See the archive

Register for The Skillset Brief

Tips, advice and insights from our specialists.

It's not a newsletter. There's no news and it's not about us - just ideas you can use.

We send them out every few weeks.

Register for The Skillset Brief