Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

A Round of Applause for Contagious Clapping

If you spend any significant amount of time in front of an audience, you know all too well the difference between a polite clapclapclap and an enthusiastic CLAPCLAPCLAP that lets you know the audience was thrilled with your every word, right?

Turns out, it may have less to do with you as a presenter/performer, and more to do with how individuals in the audience react. Research from Sweden’s Uppsala University shows that when audiences start clapping, and when they stop, are contagious. Individuals in the audience start the applause, which spreads fast or slow, depending on how many of them are applauding at once. Similarly, when individuals stop clapping, it begins a process in which everyone else gradually stops as well. So an audience with more enthusiastic individuals leads to greater applause, a more engaged audience overall does not. Humans are funny like that.

From something as unconscious as determining how enthusiastically others are clapping around you, to more complex behaviors, we are constantly looking for social cues that tell us how acceptable our behavior is. If others around us are doing XYZ, chances are it’s okay for us to do as well. Arguably, this could lead people to do things as complex as share viral videos en masse. Remember our friend Joseph Kony?

¬†Importantly, it’s not always an objective assessment that leads to these behaviors, such as “how much did I personally like the speaker?,” but a perception. It’s interesting to ponder how we, in the communications industry, can play up the idea that “everybody’s doing it,” so that it becomes self-fulfilling. On that note, it’s time to begin the weekend. Have a good one.

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.