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In behavior, normal can imply, statistically a lack of significant deviation from the average and/or in accordance with the social norms for that behavior.

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).

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).

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

Presence of normality

Absence of normality

Some terms could fit in both lists; for example, "boredom". Too much "normality" can be boring, but boredom is a kind of suffering, which can be considered "not normal".

Quote: It is dangerous to be right on a subject on which the established authorities are wrong. - Voltaire. (It is dangerous not to be "normal" even if you are right).
Quote: That kid Kate is more normal than you Robert! (i.e. an assertion that Kate acts in a such a way that bears little variance from social averages, in comparison with Robert, who possesses individual traits that cast him aside from the stereotyped social identity of his context).
Quote: Keep it Real! (Stop being fixated by dreams of unachievable things, focus on the reality of the present situation.)
Quote: "What we commonly mean by a 'normal person' is actually an ideal person whose happy blend of character is a rare occurrence" (Jung, 1966:par. 80). There is a contradiction between normal in the sense of being like the majority of people, and normal in the psychological sense of having a balanced attitude.

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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