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

Want to learn from a certified Genius? Come to MAPP…

Duckworth - GritIf you´re like most people, you´re not going to be particular fond of statistics. But: Lo and behold – it can be fun! You just need the right teacher. In the case of the MAPP program, it is Angela Duckworth who was just awarded with a McArthur Fellowship – a prize that is informally also called “Genius Grant”. Angela received this award for her research on the concept of Grit which has shown to be a predictor of (academic) success above and beyond the predictive power of intelligence. In the picture, you can see Marty Seligman in the classroom the moment he told us about Angela´s achievement.

Now it might put a little extra pressure on us being taught by a genius – but who cares? When I compare this experience to learning statistics during my undergrad studies – it´s light years apart. You just need a teacher who loves to teach. So my mantra for today is:

Statistics can be fun