Normal Distribution: Importance, Central Limit Theorem

4th May 2021 1 By indiafreenotes

In probability theory, a normal (or Gaussian or Gauss or Laplace–Gauss) distribution is a type of continuous probability distribution for a real-valued random variable. The general form of its probability density function is:

The parameter μ is the mean or expectation of the distribution (and also its median and mode), while the parameter σ is its standard deviation. The variance of the distribution is σ^2. A random variable with a Gaussian distribution is said to be normally distributed, and is called a normal deviate.

Normal distributions are important in statistics and are often used in the natural and social sciences to represent real-valued random variables whose distributions are not known. Their importance is partly due to the central limit theorem. It states that, under some conditions, the average of many samples (observations) of a random variable with finite mean and variance is itself a random variable whose distribution converges to a normal distribution as the number of samples increases. Therefore, physical quantities that are expected to be the sum of many independent processes, such as measurement errors, often have distributions that are nearly normal.

Moreover, Gaussian distributions have some unique properties that are valuable in analytic studies. For instance, any linear combination of a fixed collection of normal deviates is a normal deviate. Many results and methods, such as propagation of uncertainty and least squares parameter fitting, can be derived analytically in explicit form when the relevant variables are normally distributed.

A normal distribution is sometimes informally called a bell curve. However, many other distributions are bell-shaped (such as the Cauchy, Student’s t, and logistic distributions).

Central limit theorem

In probability theory, the central limit theorem (CLT) establishes that, in many situations, when independent random variables are added, their properly normalized sum tends toward a normal distribution (informally a bell curve) even if the original variables themselves are not normally distributed. The theorem is a key concept in probability theory because it implies that probabilistic and statistical methods that work for normal distributions can be applicable to many problems involving other types of distributions. This theorem has seen many changes during the formal development of probability theory. Previous versions of the theorem date back to 1810, but in its modern general form, this fundamental result in probability theory was precisely stated as late as 1920, thereby serving as a bridge between classical and modern probability theory.

Characteristics Fitting a Normal Distribution