What's So Important about the Normal Distribution?

One reason the normal distribution is important is that many psychological and educational variables are distributed approximately normally. Measures of reading ability, introversion, job satisfaction, and memory are among the many psychological variables approximately normally distributed. although the distributions are only approximately normal, they are usually quite close.

A second reason the normal distribution is so important is that it is easy for mathematical statisticians to work with. This means that many kinds of statistical tests can be derived for normal distributions. Almost all statistical tests discussed in this text assume normal distributions. Fortunately, these tests work very well even if the distribution is only approximately normally distributed. Some tests work well even with very wide deviations from normality.

Finally, if the mean and standard deviation of a normal distribution are known, it is easy to convert back and forth from raw scores to percentiles.