‘Am I normal? It’s a question that most of us ask ourselves at one time or another. We are troubled by inner voices or strange little obsessions; we worry that we are different, that we have weak powers of concentration or poor self-control. But without direct access to other people’s thoughts, we have only the vaguest hopes of knowing.
Science has given us ways to know. We can assess mental states and abilities using techniques ranging from psychological tests to MRI scans. These offer us a chance to compare ourselves against others, albeit quite crudely. And we see substantial variation, rendering the very idea of “normality” moot (see “Are compulsive thoughts normal?”).
That is both good and bad news. It should make the idea of being an outlier less worrying. But, ironically, it may also reinforce the idea that certain styles of thinking are better or more desirable than others – and hence that there is a norm to which we should all aspire. Such norms can make it harder to accept and assimilate diversity.’
Read more: Forget trying to be normal, we should nurture our diversity