Humans cheering and applauding

Across all cultures the dominant form of cheering and appreciation has been clapping. How and why did clapping evolve. Which culture has been credited with first using clapping as a form of apprciation?

I don’t think “all” is correct. I have a strong recollection that Islam frowns on clapping in general and it is wrong to do so as an act of appreciation. In fact clapping during a prayer is an indication the one praying has made a mistake.

Today I had my first encounter with ‘silent applause’ by waving both hands from the wrist.

Where did that come from?

Some hearing impaired people use that. I’m not sure if there are other cultures that do as well.

When Rob Reiner was a kid, his wrote a joke for his dad Carl and Mel Brooks, who were writing material for The 1000 Year Old Man bit the two of them did. The joke was about how mankind learned to clap for performers. This video clip runs just short of 2 minutes.

Clapping is thought to be instinctual, like smiling or frowning.

There is an old American joke about the lecturer who’s presentation falls flat. After the lperfomance he is approched by a member of the audience / congregation who complements him, and observes that it was so funny that “it was all we could do to stop from laughing out loud”.

I’m reminded of that, because the equivilant Australian comment would be from a European noticing that in spite of the quality of the presentation, the (traditional) Australian audience didn’t even clap during the event. And you can bet that the (tradional) Australian audience was appalled at the behaviour of the European visitor, interupting to clap and cheer. (I’m thinking of a particular example at this point).

The traditional method of German univirsity students was to drum on the floor with their feet. I caught the tail end of that in 1977 at an Australian university. Modern universities very rarely have wooden floors on which you can effectively drum your feet.

My limited reading of African literature suggests that clapping was not, in some societies, the approved or standard method of showing appreciation.

That’s not uncommon, I think. It can evolve locally: in the BBC Proms concerts, clapping is the normal applause (plus cheering if it’s been a particularly good performance), but if the people in the standing sections start to stamp, that means they want an encore.

In France, audiences had to be encouraged by claques:

In America, whistling is considered a form of expressing appreciation, but at European sporting events, it is the equivalent of a Boo.