Normal is not average


People on the internet today love to get offended and very often people get offended by someone calling something “normal”. Especially if this “normal” is somehow different from them. But often people simple misunderstand the words normal and average and use them as synonyms, which they aren’t. There is a very big difference between normal and average and I’ll try to make it clear here. Understanding that difference is the key to not get offended so easily by these words.

So, this is the normal (Gaussian) distribution or the so-called bell curve:

the normal distribution
The line in the middle, in the green area, represents the average. It’s the mean score – the sum of all scores divided by the number of scores. So you can have a group of things with an average of x, although none of the things actually is x. For example when we take the ages of a group of 10 friends: 21 21 22 23 23 25 25 25 26 29. The average age of this group of friends is 24, although none of them is actually 24. But that’s not their “normal” age. Everything in the 95,4%-range is considered normal, in the case of our group of friends an age between 19 and 29 would be “normal”. Many researchers use the more strict 99,7%-range when testing their hypothesis. So normal are 95,4% of all things, while the average is the mean of all things.

My point is – often people say normal, but mean average. Average doesn’t mean good, it just means average, the arithmetic mean. Normal is almost everything. Normal doesn’t mean good, it just means that something is not extraordinary different than other things.

This article describes the problem really good and simple in the context of child development.

Also hobo mama had a very good post on that topic again in the context of child development.

So my loved ones – I wish you uniqueness and less “normality” and “averageness”.

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2 Responses to “Normal is not average”

  1. Chase Ellsworth Says:

    Hmm, interesting concept. I suppose I would be considered quite average, perhaps slightly extraordinary but I am certainly not normal. Most people see me as a bit peculiar lol I do enjoy things many people would not enjoy such as giving away money to loosen its grip on me, watching leaves fall and seasons change, and talking to strangers much older than me, to seek wisdom. Some things I don’t enjoy would be making money in excess, being perceived as cold, rude, or discriminating; or meaningless pleasures unless shared with someone special. I think that the average person does not exist. They may be seen as average but I think humans are much more than meets the eye. If only we were more transparent creatures. Everyone is a bit quirky. If only people would except people as the way they are and look for the good, they would find it. I think the normal bell curve should be a bit more linear as I don’t think anyone quite fits. People are just people. Don’t get me wrong, I love studying them, looking for patterns, and “predicting the future” based on data but in the end its all just for fun with me. When I actually meet someone face to face I just treat them as I were meeting myself. Someone that simply needs to be found. -Chase

  2. Dreamingfrog Says:

    Madd… well, I meant mass media always say normal instead of average, and yet through them we’re told that normal means nothing. I don’t think it was by mistake these words were first used the one for the other. Now it’s an habit.

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