The best performers receive the most applause, right? Wrong, suggests a new study that found applause dynamics takes on a life of its own during a concert or other event.
The research, presented in the latest Journal of the Royal Society Interface, found that applause is more like a disease in terms of how it spreads. Applauding turns out to be a form of what’s known as “social contagion.”
During the study, “clapping increased in proportion to the number of other audience members already ‘infected’ by this social contagion, regardless of their spatial proximity,” wrote lead author Richard Mann of Uppsala University and his colleagues. “The cessation of applause is similarly socially mediated, but is to a lesser degree controlled by the reluctance of individuals to clap too many times.”
In other words, we don’t want to be perceived as idiots for clapping too much.
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