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What is Normal?

In our society, there is a huge emphasis on maintaining "normalcy" as it was so gracefully put by Warren Harding back in the 1920s.  Everyone wants to be "normal," and there is definitely a shame and a stigma attached to being "abnormal."   In fact, members of the psychological community are rapidly working to define "normal" behavior, in order that we might effectively treat abnormal, freakish behavior, and contain it so that it does not disrupt the normal flow of day to day existence for normal people.  So I had to ask myself, what is "normal," exactly?  Rather than fabricate some arbitrary information, I decided to define normal in the empirical sense, based on facts and statistical evidence.  Here are just a few tidbits of juicy information that I have uncovered regarding the state of "normal."

The average, normal person is about 35 years old, lives in a family group of about 3 people, has not graduated from college, and makes 32,000 dollars per year.  Coincidentally, only the abnormal freaks, who constitute about 15% of the American population, have graduated from college.

According to the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1994, about half of American men and women have BMIs over 25 (overweight), and about one quarter have a BMI of 30 or more (seriously obese.) The average BMI for American men and women now exceeds 27 (seriously overweight.)  I don't have any stats on this, but I'd be willing to bet large sums of money that the average American spends more time eating than they do exercising (and by exercise, I don't mean walking from your desk to the coffee machine, even if you do that multiple times per day.  I mean, a time allocation during which you put on your running shoes and pound the pavement, engage in sports, or hit the gym.)  The average person, however, seems to have plenty of time to watch TV.  According to data collated by The Nielsen Company, the average American watches 151 hours of TV per month (that amounts to 5 hours per day.)

Although most people consider themselves to be highly social and popular, studies performed by the American Sociological Review (June, 2006) have found that, believe it or not, the average American has 2 friends (dropped from 4 in 1985) and as many as 25% have no close confidants at all.  For the purposes of the study, a "friend" is defined as someone that you feel comfortable confiding sensitive and personal information with, rather than an associate, who you might know from work or school, but might only share lunch with casually, and have a very superficial relationship with.  About 80% of those surveyed admitted to feeling uncomfortable sharing personal information of an intimate nature with anyone other than family.   And of course, many of these people are, in my exceedingly humble opinion, those that are seriously challenged when it comes to traits involving human civility, courteousness, and diplomacy.

The results of the National Adult Literacy Survey conducted in 1992 have shown that the average American does not possess the literacy skills to recall a few simple facts they have just read in a short written piece, nor are they able to make basic inferences based upon the material they have read.  About half of all Americans have trouble with basic reading comprehension, and the majority of these are white and native born.  American parents are able to read at a 7th to 8th grade reading level, although the vast majority of materials distributed by pediatricians to parents, written specifically for the lay person, are written at a 10th grade reading level.  Almost half of patients, about 41%,  could not understand directions for taking medication on an empty stomach, and a bit more than 50% could not understand a standard consent form, according to a study conducted by Emory University in conjunction with UCLA.

According to results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress,  if you are a normal student,  you might have trouble answering questions related to basic algebra, such as the following:
"Which of the following expressions is NOT equivalent to (a + b) (x + y) ?"  Notice that the question does not involve SOLVING the equation, which might, of course, involve errors in computation,  but rather, it merely asks that the student be able to recognize and match terms which are equal to the original, and which would act as a good indicator of a lack of understanding for basic concepts in algebra.

I'm sure that all these factors, as well as others that are not quite so easily quantifiable, have contributed to the sad fact that the average doctoral candidate for engineering programs in the USA is now a citizen from another country (usually India, China, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan,) from cultures that embrace pain and tribulation as inherent to existence, rather than trying to avoid them at all costs, and where they are not so consumed with what is "average" and "normal," but instead with what is adaptive, productive, and excellent.

So in conclusion, let's hear it for all of you fabulous normals out there!  If it weren't for you guys, the country would be an entirely different place!


Biddle, Rishawn. (1/23/11) Bad Math. [American Spectator] Retrieved on November 4, 2011 from

Kornblum, Janet. (6/22/2006) Study: 25% of Americans have no one to confide in [USA Today] Retrieved from

Lee, Chelsea. (October 6,2011). How to Cite Something You Found on a Website in APA style [APA Blog]. Retrieved November 4,2011 from

Semuels, Alana (February 24, 2009) Television Viewing at All Time High [LA Times] Retrieved November 4, 2011, from

The Average BMI in the USA  (May 1, 2011) [Livestrong Blog] Retrived November 4, 2011 from

The Informatics Review:Why is Reading Comprehension So Important? (September 1, 2008) Retrieved on November 4, 2011, from

US census bureau fact sheet (year 2000) [government database] Retrieved November 4, 2011 from

Various Articles from Wikipedia, Retrieved November 4, 2011 from

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