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What is normal?

February 14th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Did you guys know that “normal” is a statistical concept?

Generalizing past the technical statistical usage, it basically means “common”, or “usual”. Check it out. Sure, a dictionary ¬†is a book of history, not law, but realizing that the term can exist without connotations of value (ew, you’re not normal!) can be quite liberating. For example, both ends of the IQ scale could be said to be “abnormal”, making both geniuses and (insert current low-IQ term here) “abnormal”.

But why do we give such positive¬†value to the idea of “normal”? Social psychology provides a clue: one of the worst things that can happen to a person is to be shunned — by classmates, by work team, by members of the club, by the tribe. To be normal is to resemble the group — to be included. To be abnormal is to risk being shunned. Thus “normal” = “good”, in a social sense.

In the end, though, knowledge is power. If we become aware of the statistical meaning of “normal”, and the power of shunning, we may transcend them.

Just a thought.

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