You're Probably Sub-Average Bell curve may misrepresent human performance By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted May 3, 2012 3:21 PM CDT 65 comments Comments The bell curve may not be an accurate representation of human performance. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – We tend to think of human performance as fitting a bell curve: Most people's output is about average, while there are a few outliers who are either extremely talented or very much the opposite. But people might not work that way, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed the performance of four very different kinds of people—athletes, academics, entertainers, and politicians—and found a healthy dose of outliers. Meanwhile, "a small minority of superstar performers contribute a disproportionate amount of the output," said a researcher. Most subjects' work fell below the mathematical average, NPR reports. For instance, some 80% of Emmy nominees received fewer nominations than the mean number. But a minority picked up a disproportionately-sized chunk of the nods. In the end, the researchers say, the bell-curve notion may only apply when external constraints are involved. "If you had a superstar performer working at your factory, well, that person could not do [a] better job than the assembly line would allow," says one of the investigators. The take-home message: Countries and companies should keep an eye out for such "superstars," who will likely contribute a disproportionate amount to the group's output.