Why is it, as people and as a society, do we study average so much?
In every scientific report you see, it will always be something about “the average person.”
“The average person wakes up at this time.”
“The average person sleeps this many hours.”
“The average person reads this many books.”
This is one of the very first things that students will learn in introduction to psychology, statistics, and economics classes, which is that, professionals in these fields are only really interested in general trends.
Most people, including scientists and psychologists, constantly and even consciously ignore outliers, mainly because outliers tend to mess things up by not fitting into the general pattern.
In the book “The Happiness Advantage,” Shawn Achor says,
“The typical approach to understanding human behavior has always been to look for the average behavior or outcome. But in my view this misguided approach has created what I call the “cult of the average” in behavioral sciences. If someone asks a question such as “How fast can a child learn how to read in a classroom? Science changes the question to “How fast does the average child learn to read in the classroom?” We then ignore the children who read faster or slower, and tailor the classroom toward the “average” child. This is what Tal Ben-Shahar calls “the error of the average.”
This is the problem of studying average, which is that if you study average, you will become average.
Instead, you personally should do the opposite. Instead of ignoring the outliers, you should study them so that you can learn what they do differently from the average person.
Make it an effort in your life to study the most successful people in the world. As well as the happiest people and the healthiest people.
Don’t focus on what the average person does. Instead, always ask yourself, what do the exceptional people do differently?