Most bioelectric signals are not only functions of time but also exhibit a variation in spatial distribution. Surface EMG signals are often "summarized" by a large electrode. The effect of such an electrode is interpreted as averaging the potential at the surface of the skin beneath the electrode. We first introduce an electrical equivalent model to delineate this principle of averaging. Next, in a realistic finite element model of EMG generation, two outcome variables are evaluated to assess the validity of the averaging principle. One is the change in voltage distribution in the volume conductor after electrode application. The other is the change in voltage across the high impedance double layer between tissue and electrode. We found that the principle of averaging is valid, once the impedance of the double layer is sufficiently high. The simulations also revealed that skin conductivity plays a role. High-density surface EMG provided experimental evidence consistent with the simulation results. A grid with 120 small electrodes was placed over the thenar muscles of the hand. Electrical nerve stimulation assured a reproducible compound muscle response. The averaged grid response was compared with a single electrode matching the surface of the high-density electrodes. The experimental results showed relatively small errors indicating that averaging of the surface potential by the electrode is a valid principle under most practical conditions.