Normality (behavior)  

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"Thus the norm has a history much like that of an article of common law: it is an accumulation of decisions made by the community over a long period of time which gradually gathers enough moral influence to serve as a precedent for future decisions." --"Notes on the Sociology of Deviance" (1962) by Kai T. Erikson

Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of innocence
Innocence (1893) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau: Both young children and lambs are symbols of innocence

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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". Another possible definition is that "a normal" is someone who conforms to the predominant behavior in a society. This can be for any number of reasons such as simple imitative behavior, deliberate or inconsistent acceptance of society's standards, fear of humiliation or rejection, etc.

The French sociologist Émile Durkheim indicated in his Rules of the 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 sanction, which may be positive or negative, from others in the society.

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 abnormality or as it was described at the time by Dr. Summerville, "weirdness". The goal 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 the majority perceives as the mean, or average.


From norma (“carpenter's square”).


  • 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, Émile. (1895, trans. 1982, first American edition). Rules of Sociological Method. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 978-0029079409.

See also

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