The Norm of Normality Goes Out the Window: Most Of Us Aren’t ‘Average’
Human performance … does not often fit the bell curve or what scientists call a normal distribution. Rather, it is more likely to fit what scientists call a power distribution. “Paretian or power law distributions, are typified by unstable means, infinite variance, and a greater proportion of extreme events.“
Studying the performance of 633,263 people (from entertainers to politicians to academics to collegiate as well as professional athletes), researchers Ernest O’Boyle Jr., of Longwood University’s College of Business and Economics, and Herman Aguinis at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business “found that a small minority of superstar performers contribute a disproportionate amount of the output.“
“More than 80 percent of all Emmy-nominated entertainers, for example, fell below the mean in terms of the number of nominations they received. A small but sizable minority, meanwhile, enjoyed outsize success and accounted for a disproportionately large number of Emmy nominations.“
“If you unconstrain the situation and allow people to perform as best as they can, you will see the emergence of a small minority of superstars who contribute a disproportionate amount of the output.“
This challenges both research and policy making and has implications for equality and merit and similarly fairness and bias.
Last I saw, marks at Universities are fitted to a normal distribution …. hmm shall we discuss that result again?!