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Length of Applause Not Tied To Quality of Presentation 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the hanging-out-the-window-with-a-bottle-full-of-rain dept.
sciencehabit writes "The next time you hear extended applause for a performance you didn't think was that great, don't feel like a snob. A new study reveals that audience response has more to do with the people in the seats than those up on stage. Applause, it turns out, is a bit like peer pressure. In a study of college students, individuals were more likely to start clapping if a larger percentage of the audience had already started. If 50% of the audience was clapping, for example, individuals were 10 times more likely to start clapping than if 5% of the audience was clapping. People stop clapping for the same reason. Even more surprising, the applause for a bad presentation could be just as long as applause for a good one. Random interactions in the audience can result in very different lengths of applause regardless of the quality of the talk."
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Length of Applause Not Tied To Quality of Presentation

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  • This just in! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Narcocide (102829) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:34AM (#44058577) Homepage

    Popularity of performers also not directly proportional to talent.

    • Re:This just in! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Svippy (876087) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:46AM (#44058613) Homepage

      Like the story about the applause no one dared to finish, after Stalin had spoken. First one to stop clapping was sent to Siberia. Good times.

      Note: There is a good chance this story is entirely false, but since Snopes won't cover it, I'll go with 'it probably happened'.

      • Re:This just in! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @09:09AM (#44059633)

        From http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-548542.html

        Here is the quote from Solzhenitsyn: A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly—but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter. . . . Then after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

        • So Stalin just sat there and let this go on? I mean, apart from the fact that it was stupid, cruel and absurd, it also must have been pretty boring. The more you read about him, however, the more you realise he enjoyed the absurdity of the whole thing. He really was quite terrifying.

          • by a.d.trick (894813)
            Stalin wasn't at the district conference. Note the line: "And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on—six, seven, eight minutes!"
      • by Deadstick (535032)

        I believe Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote a narrative about that.

    • And what about the sound of one hand clapping?
      • by JustOK (667959) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:56AM (#44058675) Journal

        It only makes a sound if it is in a forest with no one around

        • There is video of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing with a big shit eating grin smoking a cigar to wild applause by visibly terrified military people sitting in theater seating. The ones he's picking out of the crowd are escorted out of the room and executed. Not sure where I saw it, I think it was History Channel, years ago.

          • by cffrost (885375)

            There is video of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing with a big shit eating grin smoking a cigar to wild applause by visibly terrified military people sitting in theater seating. The ones he's picking out of the crowd are escorted out of the room and executed. Not sure where I saw it, I think it was History Channel, years ago.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bm64E5R12s8 [youtube.com]

      • by fredrated (639554)

        "Error, missing parameter; clapping not defined for one hand."

      • by istartedi (132515)

        And what about the sound of one hand clapping?

        I can do this by bending my wrist up at an angle, holding my arm vertically, and waving vigorously. The fingers slap down on the palm and it's one hand clapping. Of course it's not Zen at all; but it's a way of crushing Zen with practicality and approximation... which might be Zen after all. Who knows? I can only do it with my right hand though.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Amen to that! A Rhesus Monkey with a ventriloquist could've replaced Michael Jackson.
      But, as far as this silly study goes, if 50% start clapping immediately, it IS a sign of enthusiastic enjoyment, therefore the other half are peered into it, but,the fact that an immediate response was elicited from a near majority is, in fact, a sign of quality of performance. This reeks of the bias of wannabes fulfilling an assignment for a grade, with the delusion that they could "find" some "revealing" characteristic in

      • by Urza9814 (883915)

        I actually expected to see a slightly different conclusion based on the headline -- I figured it would be that the length of the applause is related not to the presentation but to who is presenting it. If I presented at a Linux conference for example, no matter how good my presentation was, I bet Torvalds would get a longer applause simply because nobody knows who the hell I am. Certainly seems that way from the conferences I've attended...

        • by flyneye (84093)

          Yeah, popularity is a big factor. But we can't discount the performance, or content in Torvalds case. Don't feel bad, between you and Jagger, the same thing would've occurred.
          But this study is narfed. They don't account for audience self absorption in the late clappers. They don't account for a 1 - 10 scale on the length of applause.
          They don't account for " polite applause" for entertainment neutral presentations. Frankly, the criteria really sounds like a half drunken attempt to busy a group of people, til

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Are you trying to argue that market forces don't produce a meritocracy, commie?!

      Perhaps that can be a litmus test: only people who agree Michael Jackson is the best musician in history are true capitalist believers.

    • by Vozmozno (985521)

      This is also painfully obvious whenever the president gives his state of the union speech...

      The camera pans the crowd and you can clearly point out the people who are just going with it, thinking "Let's just sit down already", but everybody keeps clapping at the tiniest thing for the first 10 minutes or so...

      (always seemed like worship to me... even Obama's expression went "...lemme talk now..." a couple of times)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    After all these years of evolution, we are still just ants responding to pheromones or cows prone to rampages.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Personally, I never clap even if everyone else is doing it. Take that, peer pressure!

      • by keytoe (91531) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @01:46PM (#44062487) Homepage

        Personally, I never clap even if everyone else is doing it. Take that, peer pressure!

        I had a friend in high school who had a very similar response to The Herd. He would always do the opposite, claiming non conformity.

        He asked me once why I had similar non conformist viewpoints, but didn't engage in the same sort of 'opposite' behavior he did. I answered that anti-conformity is simply a different form of conformity and that he wasn't being truly independent at all.

        If your behavior is a reaction to someone else's behavior, you're not thinking for yourself. If you come to some conclusion on your own that happens to be similar to the herd mentality, it doesn't diminish your personal opinion. To think so is self limiting for no reason other than being contrary.

  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:52AM (#44058655) Homepage

    Are they trying to win the 2013 Ig Nobel prize or something?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:59AM (#44058683)

    I clap my hands really fast and strong when i want to fart aswell

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @06:01AM (#44058689)

    just means everybody is sooo happy they get to go home.

    • It's perfunctory. In this city, for example, it's very rare for a performance not to get a standing ovation.... I've seen some absolutely terrible performances still get 'em, because apparently, that's what people do around here.

      • It's perfunctory. In this city, for example, it's very rare for a performance not to get a standing ovation.... I've seen some absolutely terrible performances still get 'em, because apparently, that's what people do around here.

        At least we're not the only ones anymore. Do you guys get cupcakes, too?

  • even if they don't understand a thing that was said in the presentation. like many attending political rallies...
  • I mean, important stuff, like cure for cancer?

    They have to study what is obvious to anybody with a bit of a common sense? And how is this non-story ends up on /.?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @06:42AM (#44058849)

      You are right. Every study on cancer was shut down while researchers worked on the clapping study. It required the best brains in the cancer research studies to pull this off. Thank you for pointing this out between your sessions of porn watching and video games.

    • Create checksums at the end of DNA and compare the checksum to known one & destroy the bad ones. Cancer cured right! (You just have to hope the "known one" doesn't get corrupted, cause it will start to destroy everything in you, mwahaha!)
    • by rroman (2627559)
      This might seem trivial, but I think it is not. This actually describes how the crowd mentality works, how predictable it is and I think more interesting things are in the study. This is NOT waste of time.
    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Forget the cure for cancer even. This was someone's not having to take a second job, someone's chance to head home a little early and spend time with their kids, someone's medication to make their mother's life earlier, someone's chance to replace the dangerous badly worn brakes, someones opportunity to move their newborn out of a mold-ridden apartment.

      Taxes. Someone earned that money.

    • by ianalis (833346)

      “The scientist does not study nature because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.”
        Henri Poincare

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Science can be so awkward when it makes statements like this about things that were obvious to most of the world already.

    • Science can be so awkward when it makes statements like this about things that were obvious to most of the world already.

      To be fair, gravity is obvious but we're still working out the math on that. Just because everyone thinks it's obvious doesn't mean the result actually are; We have to do the test and sometimes at a large scale. For instance: The New Coke. Focus groups said they liked it. It was new, of course it's obviously better.... That wasn't the case when we scaled up the experiment though, eh?

      Conversely: You can make anything sound more reasonable and less awkward when talking to a scientist by prefacing the

      • Focus groups said they liked it. It was new, of course it's obviously better.... That wasn't the case when we scaled up the experiment though, eh?

        So... What are you saying, this research could be flawed and more study is required? I really would like to get to the bottom of this clapping duration.

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          I'd like to see a study in audiences composed mostly parents of the performers are compared to audiences of unrelated adults.

          Just this weekend I heard somebody trying to convince radio listeners that knowing when to start and stop clapping was a fine example of the "the wisdom of crowds." I like to see situations where real sociologists put such notions in their pseudoscientific place.

          • by Richy_T (111409)

            I'd like to see a study funded by those who care rather than with money extorted from taxes.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      I agree "It turns out" is a lousy way to express a scientific finding. "Scientists demonstrate" is a much better phrase to use.
  • by ribuck (943217) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @06:32AM (#44058805) Homepage

    When I was in my teens, I was watching a circus. Between every act, a cleaner with a broom and a garbage bag would clear any detritus from the ring.

    After a few acts, I clapped this guy, just for a laugh. To my surprise, everyone else joined in. From that point on, until the end of the show, the cleaner got rapturous applause every time!

    • by slart42 (694765) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @06:46AM (#44058861)

      Similar experience from my teens:

      In my school the principal had all 1500 students gathered in the gym to give some sort of boring speech. In between the students would clap, which I found stupid, because I thought he was talking bullshit. So me and two friends decided to make fun of it, and started clapping in odd places. To our surprise it caught on really well, and quickly everyone joined in - probably some because they got the prank, and others out of reflex. In any case, the situation quickly became hilarious with everyone in the audience clapping as soon as the principal would open his mouth to speak - at some point he started screaming "Stop clapping" - which was of course replied to with a big applause.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Once I watched a theatre play with a very abstruse, modern plot.

        Anyway, there were quite a few absurdities, and the audience laughed at them, as it clearly believed them to be intended for satirical/comical effect. Even when the main character was executed, it still made sense in light of the absurdity of the piece, although the audience saw this as an unexpected twist in the plot.

        After the piece, a friend of mine who played in the piece expressed surprise about the audience: she said they rehearsed the pie

      • by Inda (580031)
        Our two top bosses stood up in front of all 100 of us last month. The news was "We need to save 10 million Euros. No new projects are coming. Guess the rest"

        One idiot started clapping at the end, then another, then another. In the end, everyone, except me, was clapping.

        Social comformity grinds my gears.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        There was a half-forgoten incident during the military dictatorship in greece, where one of the colonels was giving a big talk to highschool students in a stadium.
        They all cept clapping and applauding thus not letting him speak.
        It was a wierd moment of resistance but the face of the guy in the video is priceless

    • Something similar happens at the BBC Proms whenever there's a piano concerto.

      The leader of the orchestra plays an A and then the prommers at the front applaud (This is just the done thing, like shouting "Heave" when the lid of the piano is opened - to which the gallery reply "Ho".) Sometimes the leader takes a bow, sometimes they just ignore it.

      But sometimes the applause grows to the point where half the hall is clapping (but not the prommers who started it all)

      Tim.

      • I was at a trombone choir concert. After intermission the did a mini-warm up. Buzzing into their mouthpieces. Afterwards, I began applauding wildly. As a brass player, I was well aware that this was not the intended result. Nevertheless, two or three others instinctively started clapping, too. And that was about all it took to get the entire audience applauding. Fun times.
  • CLAP.

    CLAP.

    CLAP.

    (clap clap clapclap clap clap clapclapclapclapclapclap)

  • This is something that I think most people already know happens. I mean, I get that verifying it experimentally is necessary before the implications can be considered, but it certainly isn't going to raise many eyebrows, is it?

  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @07:48AM (#44059139)

    Its how you applaud that matters...

  • Test comment from lal
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @08:51AM (#44059499)

    I go to one of the old "mainline" churches. It is a cultural feature there that you are not supposed to applaud performances, as they are (supposedly) done for the glory of God, not self aggrandizement.

    However, it occasionally still happens, which makes it a really interesting study. Our choir director was asked about it, and he said it was his observation that it tended to happen much more often when a peice ends suddenly after a very loud part. His theory was that sudden silence feels out of place, so the parishoners feel the need to fill it with something. After a couple more years of watching it myself, I believe he may be onto something.

    So I would suspect the frequency and volume of applause probably has a lot more to do with how the preceeding piece ended than with they quality of the performance. As a performer, if you want applause, just make sure your final note/line/whatever is as loud as possible!

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      As a performer, if you want applause, just make sure your final note/line/whatever is as loud as possible!

      ...interesting coincidence that my bottom of the page /. quote of the day is:

      "If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"

    • This comment is going to be my "takeaway" from this story.

  • by zazzel (98233) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @09:15AM (#44059671)

    1. Pay a few guys to start clapping and keep going.
    2. Profit!

    (Or: guess where the word "claqueur" comes from. This effect has been known for centuries.)

  • Just watch any stand-up comedian. Inevitable hooting and applause at any joke that mentions farts or genitalia.
  • Conclusion: "Well, duh..."

  • ... the performers will start the next piece.

  • They only looked at the length of applause involving groups of 13 to 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students. This is a special case.

    During my time as a postgraduate student I gave many good presentations, but my 1th year presentations were abdominal, I was under prepared and inexperienced, as were many fellow students. People clapped at the end of my terrible talks as long as any other talk as they just wanted to encourage me. It's common for students to suffer a lack of confidence at the early stage of

  • I think it's out of happiness to finally get my life back from the insane limbo of boredom.
  • Like whistling and screaming "Ya baby, take it all off!"
  • I applaud this article repeatedly and loudly... everyone else seems to be doing so.

  • You aren't a snob, you're extremely insecure and need to work on that.

    Learn to lead your life yourself, not follow the crowd.

  • ...but apparently that wouldn't mean anything.

  • on the quality of the clap sign!

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

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