Labels and impact

28. Oct, 2013

What is 'normal'? Well basically someone - usually an academic - runs a ruler over a population and decides anything outside the famous bell curve is not normal. Of course one needs to consider who is in the population measured and is it really representative. Assuming we agree it is, then we have this socially constructed definition of normal and deviant.  However, usually deviant is used to describe those who are in some way negatively viewed in relation to 'normal'. I am sure there are many on both sides of the bell who consider those within the bell deviant, especially in comparison to them. 

Imagine a typical street - one home owner spends hours tending his garden and it is the most beautiful garden you can imagine. Next door is a chap who never does a thing in the garden - or yard because he really has nothing one could call a garden. A hailstorm destroys the beautiful garden but as there is no garden next door really does no damage there. People say it was far worse for the gardener because he had something to lose.

Now think about this in the context of cognitive imapirment. We have two people - one is considered very bright and the other your typical slogger. They both lose 50% cognitive function and yet here people say óh well, it is worse for person 2 because person 1 fell from a much higher position and so is still quite OK.' Surely one needs to think in a similar way to that of the prior examples or specified for pain responses: pain is what the person says it is? 

Would we have mild cogitive impairment if some health professional/ researchers had not defined it by deciding what is or is not normal? Is it really relevant if the person so labelled is quite happily living their life? Is it OK to define people as sick or impaired just because they fall outside the bell on some magical measure? 

Does this mean before we had the measure their was NO MCI? It is a bit like is there music in the desert if noone can hear it. I do not want to sound like a conspirary theorist BUT is there a time to call a halt to ever expanding labels and definitions of deviance?

Should there be stricter restrictions around finding new çases'? 

One of the dangers of specialists is that they specialise! People are extremely complex and can not really be understood through just one pair of glasses. As more and more specialists dig deeper and deeper into their little area they will predictably find much outside of the bell curve BUT this does not take account of how the person cross compensates; we know already that education, culture and SES impact the results of intelligence tests -  I am arguing I guess that 'we'need to be far more considered before we label normal or deviant especially when we are usually focussed down a very narrow microscope. Just to complicate the question, we also should be aware that the person looking to label may well be deviant in some way themselves!