Applause is contagious and unpredictable

All entertainers like it when they get a long applause at the end of their show. It is often thought that the duration of an applause says something about the quality of a performance, but nothing could be further from the truth. The duration of a standing ovation is just as unpredictable as the weather.

Swedish researchers have watched video footage of groups of thirteen to twenty students listening to a presentation. Every time they saw the same effect: one or two people start clapping, after which the rest of the room connects.

When 50% of the audience claps, individuals are willing to hook in ten times faster than when only 5% of the audience claps. On average, someone starts clapping 2.1 seconds after the end of a presentation. After 2.9 seconds, the entire room connects. An applause (from start to finish) takes 6.1 seconds on average.

Average number of hits


Most people clap about 10 times, but there are also people who persistently persist and even clap their hands 20 times.

Social pressure
"This social pressure to clap is not increased because your neighbor clap, but because the volume of clap in the room increases," explains researcher Richard Mann of Uppsala University at the BBC. The quality of the presentation did not influence the duration of the applause. “Sometimes people clap three times, but occasionally ten times. Social pressure ensures that we start clapping and that we do not stop quickly. Until someone else stops! ”Because when someone suddenly stops clapping, the applause dies out very quickly.

Hype or trend?
The results of this study are broader. How is it possible that a certain item of clothing is fashionable in one go? Why is a certain social networking site a hype? And how do ideas spread via the internet? This all has to do with social contamination.

Video: What Drug Dealers Taught Me About Trust. Pamela Barnum. TEDxCollingwood (June 2019).