By: Karl Smallwood
Clapping is the near-ubiquitous way we show our appreciation of something, particularly when we’re in large groups. But have you ever wondered why slapping our hands together has come to be so closely associated with approval and where the practise originated from?
To begin with, the idea of clapping to show appreciation is a learned behavior. Babies generally start clapping before they are one year old, but without encouragement from parents, this tends to be a behavior that isn’t often used, and certainly not to show appreciation- simply that the baby discovers it can make a noise with its hands and for a time becomes fascinated by this. From here, parents usually begin (whether consciously or not) teaching them to use this motion and sound to show enthusiasm. This does not carry over to other primates. Our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom have been known to clap in some cases, but this is a behavior used to signify fear or attract attention to themselves- usually because they’ve found food- not to display approval.
So who was the first to decide this clapping sound we can make with our hands should be used to demonstrate approval or enthusiasm?
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