November 12, 2017

There are no Normal People

The concept of "normal people" is a threat to all of us, including -- of course -- transgender, non-binary and queer people. 

Time for a closer look!

There are no normal people. Seriously!

If you look at any distribution of human traits, abilities, interests, looks or mannerisms you will probably never find one person that is the average of them all, and if you do, that person is so rare that he or she is abnormal.

The median line in this figure has no width in reality. It is purely a theoretical construct, useful for statistics and research but with no counterpart out in the real world.

Illustration by lamnee.
"But hey, Jack, wait a minute!" you might say. "All of us consider 'normal' to be a broader area than that. Normalcy is rather something like this section of the bell curve."


Sure, but that is also a theoretical construct. In statistics normalcy may be defined as the area between +1 and -1 (the number is not important here, but it equals the marked area in the figure above), equalling 68 percent of a sample. 

Used to measure people, that would make 68% of us normal. 

Men are taller than women, right?  Well, no, not really. My wife and I have visited Asian countries a few times, and Sally can look down at the local men most of the time. This is all relative, really.

As Augustin Fuentes points out in an article over at Psychology Today: If you actually go out and select thousands of individual people at random and just look at their heights in the absence of any other data, you are going to be able to accurately determine their sex by their height alone only about 30 percent of the time.


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