What is normal?

Now, I know this is a little off-topic, but as you may know, research methods and statistics is a really important part of the MAPP program. If you´ve ever had classes in statistics, you´ll surely have heard of the Normal/Gaussian distribution. It was named after German mathematician Carl-Friedrich Gauss. You can see the guy and the distribution on the ’10 Deutsche Mark Schein’ – which unfortunately is not in use any more since the advent of the EURO.

The nice thing about the normal distribution is: it displays what´s normal. That´s how it has gotten its name. Basically, it shows that most things and people are ‘somewhere in the middle’ pertaining to most properties. That´s why the cusp of the curve in the middle. So most people are of average height, intelligence, beauty… you name it. The Brad Pitts and Stephen Hawkings of this world are the outliers. They do exist, but they are much scarcer than the John and Jane Does. Isn´t that reassuring? 🙂


If you would like to see the Gaussian function (and the underlying probability theory) in action, just have a look at this amazing Youtube video:



Maybe this post isn´t that off-topic after all. Below, you can see a chart taken from a presentation by Charlie Scudamore. It explains the overarching goal of Positive Psychology in terms of the Gaussian distribution. Basically, we´d like to give the whole human population a little nudge. We´d like everybody to be move a little bit into the direction of flourishing, shifting the mean of the distribution just a little to the right. Now who says statistics is just a waste of time…?!

The Goal of Positive Psychology

Biophilia: If you feel Blue, touch Green!

PP_Pioneer_AwardOne of the speakers at this year´s MAPP Summit has been Charlie Scudamore. He´s Vice Principal of Geelong Grammar School (GGS) in Australia. For several years now, this school has implemented the principles of Positive Psychology in its curriculum, or, for that matter, in the way the school managed on the general level. Therefore, Martin Seligman awarded Charlie with the ‘Pioneer Award’ for the application of Positive Psychology – he is now considered as one of the founding fathers of Positive Education. If you are interested in the way that Positive Psychology is implemented at GGS please click here.

In his talk, Scudamore also touched the aspect of Biophilia. The ‘Biophilia Hypothesis’ draws on evolutionary psychology to support the idea that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. By way of example, there´s considerable evidence that spending time in the woods, or just adding plants to a room, can have a mood-boosting effect and alleviate depressive symptoms. That´s why spending time outside, especially in the ‘wilderness’, plays an important part at GGS. Charlie´s summary of this issue: “If you feel blue, touch green!”


Hippocrates: If you´re in a bad Mood, go for a Walk

I´m at the third onsite of the 2013/14 MAPP program. This onsite is special because it´s the MAPP Summit: were being joined by some 60 MAPP alumni from the first eight editions of the program. Also, we´re welcoming some very interesting guest speakers. We will be joined by Art Carey from the Philadelphia Enquirer, Charlie Scudamore, who is Vice Principal at Geelong Grammar School, Ellen Langer from Harvard – and John Ratey, also from Harvard.

Right now, John Ratey is giving a presentation on the beneficial effects of physical exercise on overall well-being. He had this really nice slide that draws on Hippocrates – and I just want to share it with you…