John Baez originally shared this post:
Most people are below average! Human performance is often not distributed according to the famous 'bell curve' or 'Gaussian'. Instead, a small number of people vastly outperform the rest. A new study shows that in 186 out of 198 groups ranging from physics professors and Grammy nominees to cricketers and swimming champion, a small group of 'superstars' account for much of the success of the group as a whole. That means the majority are performing below the mathematical average – or to be precise, the 'arithmetic mean'.
This should not be depressing news, but it does mean that blindly modelling people's behavior using a bell curve is a bad idea. So is expecting that 'average' means 'typical'.
For decades, teachers, managers and parents have assumed that the performance of students and employees fits what's known as the bell curve — in most activities, we expect a few people to be very good…