Folk Judgments of Normality: Part Statistical, Part Evaluative

Abstract

Existing research has emphasized the importance of normality judgments in many aspects of cognition and life (e.g., causal cognition, gradable adjectives, cooperative behavior). Yet little work has explored how people actually come to understand what sorts of things are normal. We argue that people’s normality intuitions reflect a mixture of statistical and evaluative considerations. Specifically, we suggest that people’s intuitions about what is normal can be influenced by representations both of the average and of the ideal. We test this idea in three experiments. Experiment 1a demonstrates that explicit judgments of normality reflect this mixture of statistical and evaluative considerations. Experiments 1b and 2 then show that the hybrid notion that comes out in these explicit judgments can also explain people’s judgments about gradable adjectives. Taken together, these findings have potential implications not only for normality judgments themselves, but also for the many other mental activities that these judgments impact.


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