Normality (behavior)

In behavior, normal refers to a lack of significant deviation from the average. The phrase "not normal" is often applied in a negative sense (asserting that someone or some situation is improper, sick, etc.). Abnormality varies greatly in how pleasant or unpleasant this is for other people; somebody may half-jokingly be called "pleasantly disturbed".

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "normal" as 'conforming to a standard'. This, although almost right, is not entirely correct. "A normal" is someone who conforms to the ideals of society. This can be for any number of reasons, ranging from the positive (genuine admiration for and acceptance of society's standard, for example) to the negative (fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, fear of being thought mad).

As normality is often hard to define, a case study was done in 2008 in which students at Woodvale Senior High School, specifically students in the music program, were exposed to a certain kind of abnormalality or as it was described at the time by Dr. Summerville, "weirdness." The aim was to see what adolescents perceived as normal, or "average," and what they thought would be abstract, or as many of the participants described it, "weird." Sarah Nader and Murray Bishop, two of the test subjects were asked to have a "normal conversation" with their peers. However it soon became apparent that the discussions had between close, or even "best," friends was defined as weird by others of whom they were engaging in conversation. The conclusions of the study were that normalness is not an entirely flawed concept, rather it is simply defined as what they majority perceives as the mean, or average.

From the Latin Normalis (f).

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim indicated in his Rules of Sociological Method that the most common behavior in a society is considered normal. People who do not go along are violating social norms and will invite a negative reaction from others in the society. For example, if most drivers speed five or ten MPH over the speed limit, and one is observing the speed limit, the legal driver is not behaving normally, and is likely to get sanctioned with headlights, the horn, or aggressive driving. However, non-conforming behavior is inevitable, and is punished in proportion to the offense the behavior generates in other people in society. Therefore, a range of social sanctions can be employed, from ill feelings and a negative assessment in response to violations of folkways (lowest-level rules), to anger and violence in response to violations of mores (mid-level rules), and formal fines, imprisonment, or execution for violations of laws (the most significant rules).

Presence and absence of normality

Issues dealing with normality and the lack thereof are discussed, in part, in the following articles:

See also


  • Jung, C.G. (1966). The Problem of the Attitude-Type, in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, Collected Works, Volume 7 Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01782-4.
  • Durkheim, Emile. (1895, trans. 1982, first American edition). Rules of Sociological Method. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 978-0029079409.

External links

  • Is It Normal? An online experiment to determine what is normal via unscientific surveys
  • Lochrie, Karma Desiring Foucault Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies - Volume 27, Number 1, Winter 1997, pp. 3-16

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