How does an audience collectively decide the applause is over?


I think most people figure they’ll clap until the applause dies down. But if everyone were to think like that we would clap forever. How does the audience hive mind, for lack of a better term, stop the applause?

In: Other

Honestly I think it depends on what their applauding and a general understanding of how long is acceptable. If its a polite applause its generally like, no more than 5 seconds, enough to show appreciation but not too long that if its a speaker or play the applause is going to interrupt the flow of the speech or show. At the end its up to how much the audience appreciated the performance, as it allows for a longer applause, the longer and louder the more appreciative.

As an example: in a play its acceptable after each scene to have a short applause and at the end its acceptable to have a longer one, and for concerts if the applause amd cheering is lively enough they might do an extra set called an encore. I think it’s concidered common knowledge, and i think most people kind of know how long depending on the situation. I dont think its a hive mind thing so much as an understanding of social ettiquette.

Some people determine length of clap based on how long they feel is a conventionally good length of time to clap, or the length of time that they feel like clapping. Like if they really like it, they’ll clap a long time, and if they are only oK about it, they’ll clap for a shorter length of time. Others will clap until they feel the clapping is dying down. Once the people who clap based on their feelings begin to stop clapping, the clapping will die down and then the people who clap based on following the lead of other people, will stop clapping. eventually the clapping will stop.

Of course, sometimes there are rules for how long to clap. These might take the form of people looking to someone of high status in the audience and doing what they do. Like if the king claps a long time, others clap as well. If the king gives a standing ovation, everyone else stands. and then there’s Josef Stalin and clapping, where clapping could be a matter literally of life or death: [](

To the best of my understanding it works similar to the purchase and selling of stocks. Everyone just has a general sense of how long an applause should last (how much value a particular stock has). If enough people stop clapping this causes other people to change how they feel; now they feel that enough time has passed and they also stop. With stocks, if enough people start selling quickly enough than it gives other people the impression that their stocks are losing value so they also sell.

Your hypothetical situation is correct; if you had enough independent thinkers in a crowd who decided they wouldn’t stop clapping then I guarantee other people would join in. Similarly in the stock market if you have enough people who believe strongly enough in the value of a stock to keep it than other people will catch on and the perceived value will be higher.

In the case of live performances there are usually cues.

No one wants to be the only clapper. So, if a few people stop that triggers more people to stop that triggers even more people to stop. Kinda like an exponential decay.

There are a lot of people in any given audience that do not want to clap for too long because it gets cringey. As soon as they hear it waning down, they are happy to stop in unison relatively quickly. Then there is a smaller group of ppl who even when it starts winding down, they ramp it up to keep it going and the ones who just momentarily stopped now have to resume or llook awkward. True thought that that goes through their head “Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick, shut the fuck up”. This does not apply to the end of a concert that everyone enjoyed. My beef is particular ppl who feel they need to take it in their hands (literally) to keep it going. The thought that goes through their head “these people don’t know any better. This deserves more cowbell”

I figure it’s like this:

Some fraction of people always clap briefly. They’re doing it as a ritual, they wouldn’t really clap longer or shorter if the thing was good/bad, they just routinely clap for 3-4 seconds because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Some fraction of people clap until they notice the noise is starting to die down, and then they stop, that might be when that first fraction has stopped, but it might go on longer if all the rest of the audience is still clapping hard and the fact that the first fraction has stopped clapping is not really noticeable.

Some fraction of people clap on their own schedule, and don’t take much notice of the rest of the audience. They clap as long as they feel is appropriate, whether that’s very brief, or an extended ovation (they notice the rest of the audience a little, but their length of clapping is mostly self-determined). Most people have pretty good instincts about this and won’t go on for like a ridiculous amount of time, and whenever you get that awkward situation where all but one or two people have stopped clapping, those last few can usually be shamed into stopping with a look of disapproval from their neighbors.

Obviously this is all a very rough form of crowd intelligence, which is why applause usually doesn’t just stop suddenly on a dime, but gradually fades away over the course of a couple seconds. Different people notice at different times that its time to stop, that the applause is over. Some people notice early, some notice later. And you’ve probably encountered that funny situation where it *appeared* like the applause was about to end but then suddenly it picked back up again. That’s a situation where a bunch of people misread the signals, or were indecisive and changed their minds.

I teach my students that polite applause is 8 claps long.

The length of total applause depends on how many people are enthusiastic and how many are giving whatever they perceive to be the bare minimum.

Applause is over when enough people drop out that continued clapping is awkward.

At a certain point, people’s arms and hands get tired, and mentally they also think, “This applause has gone on long enough.” Even if others don’t stop, they will stop.

Slightly off topic, but just out of curiousity. Has anyone ever asked a co-worker male or female in a professional environment, to actually explain something to them like they’re 5?

Now, if you’ve ever played “last clap” you will know it never ends.
Even on the way back to the car park, there are opportunities to sneak in a percussive palm-to-palm.

Theory of mind, maybe?

I think most of it is down to social convention.

I’ve been to a few classical concerts in my hometown and there’s definitely a convention for that sort of gig, it’s pretty much set in stone. The audience is expected to continue their applause while the conductor leaves and returns to the stage twice, singles out sections of the orchestra for extra cheers, asks the orchestra to stand while they refuse to allow the conductor to take the applause on their own, before finally rising again for the final time. ITS FUCKING EXHAUSTING…

In my experience at rock and pop shows the audience usually takes their queues from the house lights/music – if they stay down you’re expected to stomp and shout for more, when they come up there’s no chance of an extra encore and it quickly dies.

In our university, if audience didn’t like some speaker, it continued to applaud untill speaker left the stage.

Researchers have found that applause spreads like a ‘disease’ though an audience, with applause duration often not connected to the quality of the performance.

You can compare the stoping of it to a pack of fish that slow down together, there is the first one who stops than the other and so on like a domino

it is basically a majority vote. you stop clapping when the applause ceases, yes. but you also stop clapping when you think you had clapped enough given the quality of the performance.

Here’s another interesting example of the same idea. An audience playing pong by holding up coloured paddles, where the percentage of the audience holding up a green paddle determines how high the team’s pong paddle is on the screen: [](

If you want to stop an applause you first need to take a lead (works even with audiences with 200+ people) and then just change the tempo to be more slow, progressively dying out.

Depends on where you are. At military events the rule we are usually given when clapping while in a formation is that you all stop clapping when the highest ranking person stops.

Every individual still makes their own decisions, one person stops, another stops somewhere else, until just a few are left, they can hear it and also stop, but yeah I think everyone is right, there’s just lots of factors


1. Something else is happening. Like the lights turn on and it’s time to go.

2. As people drop out of applause others are more likely to follow. Cascading into it stopping completely