In probability theory, the central limit theorem (CLT) states that, given certain conditions, the mean of a sufficiently large number of independent random variables, each with finite mean and variance, will be approximately normally distributed. The central limit theorem has a number of variants. In its common form, the random variables must be identically distributed. In variants, convergence of the mean to the normal distribution also occurs for non-identical distributions, given that they comply with certain conditions.
In more general probability theory, a central limit theorem is any of a set of weak-convergence theories. They all express the fact that a sum of many independent and identically distributed (i.i.d.) random variables, or alternatively, random variables with specific types of dependence, will tend to be distributed according to one of a small set of attractor distributions. When the variance of the i.i.d. variables is finite, the attractor distribution is the normal distribution. In contrast, the sum of a number of i.i.d. random variables with power law tail distributions decreasing as |x|−α−1 where 0 < α < 2 (and therefore having infinite variance) will tend to an alpha-stable distribution with stability parameter (or index of stability) of α as the number of variables grows.
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