Falling on the Edge of the Bell Curve

I’ve been looking at the comments on the XY code reader survey (you can still take it here). One person said “When you say ‘Men are like this, but I am not’ you weaken your point.”

Yeah, I can see that. Sometimes I am like “the average male”, but I fight it. I’ve learned that what comes naturally is not always kind! On other things, I have never been like the male average. I suspect most men have things like that, but it seems I have more than my share. It also seems Lori has more than her share of things where she is not like the female average. Perhaps this gives us a bit of an edge in dealing with couples – we each have a bit better understanding of the other sex than most.

While there are plenty of behaviours that fall along gender lines, it is almost never a clear line. Most things fall on bell curves, with one curve for men and another for women.

Consider these two sets of bell curves:

Bell curves © Paul H. Byerly

In the top example, one gender has a wider curve, while the other has a higher curve. IQ falls on curves like this, with men having more high and low scores, and women having more in the middle. (The actual difference is rather small.)

In the second example, the curves are the same height, but they are off set. The majority of the green are higher than the majority of the red. The sense of smell is like this in humans, with women as a whole having a better sense of smell than men as a whole. However, there are exceptions. For example, the blue dot is my sense of smell, and the pink dot it Lori’s. My sense of smell is better than hers, but not as good as most women. Her sense of smell is weaker than mine, but not as weak as most men.

My diagrams are of course very simplified. The two bell curves could be closer or further apart, and in the top example the peaks of the two curves do not usually match. Much of what I discuss on this blog is things that fall on bell curves such as these. This means what I say will hold true for most couples, but not all. Therefore, it can provide a good starting point, but you mileage will vary on occasion.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I like bell curves way too much!

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3 Comments on “Falling on the Edge of the Bell Curve

  1. Pingback: Don’t fence me in…you don’t speak for me | musings by carly

  2. Bell curves and bar graphs are much more informative than just looking at averages. Just for example, statistics used to tell us that the average number of children couples had was 2.1 kids! The average person does not exist in this case because it is impossible for anyone to have 2.1 kids. I suspect this is similar to the case of the ‘average man’ or the ‘average woman’. These people don’t really exist. Some are closer to average than others, but you will never find an archetypal man or woman who is average or ‘normal’ in all respects. Looking at the average becomes even more of a problem when we make the assumption that the average is ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ or ‘the way we should be’.

    I thank God for variety and the tails of the curve!

  3. I totally agree with the notion that all of these things are distributions and not absolutes (could apse have to do with being a statistician :) ). I definitely fall far from the ‘male standard’ in many ways, but every now and then my wife says ‘sometimes you are such a guy’ :)

    Thanks for sharing!

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