The Sound of Silence

Since I started taking courses outside of the Psychology Department and the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences, I’ve stumbled upon an interesting piece of cultural diversity amongst the faculties of our University.

This peculiarity first occurred to me when I accidentally ended up in a lecture of a course called ‘International Law and Organization’ (don’t ask me why, I must have entered the wrong room and somehow forgot to leave). At the end of the lecture something quite strange happened, though I could not exactly tell what. After a moment of pondering in silence I finally realized what it was. It was the silence itself. Or rather, the absence of applause.

“How impolite of these unthankful rogues!”

As I looked around I saw people packing their bags and doing other things while they were slowly making their way towards the exit door. More importantly, however, they did not put their hands together for our lecturer. How impolite of these unthankful rogues! Didn’t they appreciate the words of our poor professor, who so passionately explained all the breathtaking aspects of international jurisdiction? But then I looked at him and noticed that he didn’t seem to mind the lack of applause. At all.

It was in that pivotal moment that I realized that I was dealing with a social convention here. Apparently, one simply does not clap in the House of Law. Since then I’ve been paying attention to the way people behave at the end of a lecture. As most of the students in the Department will know, Groningen psychology students usually applaud after their lectures. But after a lecture in philosophy one remains silent, although it depends on which city you are in. I’ve heard from a reliable source that it is completely fine to applaud lecturers at the University of Amsterdam. Unless you are studying Biomedical Science, of course.

“We should all make a radical decision to restore the grand gesture of the Applause”

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that we, psychology students of Groningen, really do a lousy job at applauding. Most of the clapping I’ve heard at our faculty was pretty damn disappointing. Honestly, it was soft, short, and uninspired. I believe this is becoming a serious problem and we should all make a radical decision to restore the grand gesture of the Applause.

That is why I suggest we applaud as loud and as long as we can, with an occasional cheer thrown into the mix (I would be happy to volunteer). Or we clap just once. One big, loud clap, all at the same time. And then we leave.

(This is an adaptation of an article, also written by Roos Cornelius, that previously appeared in Diemensies, the bimonthly magazine of the Psychology program at the University of Groningen.)

NOTE: Image by Marcin Wichary, licenced under CC BY 2.0

Roos Cornelius is currently studying Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Groningen and graduating as an artist at the Academy Minerva. Her two main interests are science and modern art and she has been playing with their boundaries ever since she started at the university. In 2013 Roos was selected to do an exchange semester in Fine Arts in New York City, where she blogged about her experiences for UK, the university newspaper. Roos also writes columns and makes illustrations for Diemensies, the student paper of the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences.


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One comment

  • Tassos Sarampalis May 30, 2014  

    Hear hear! I also find the applause at the end of lectures a wonderful institution. Besides beautifully punctuating the end of the event, it is good feedback for the lecturer, inasmuch as its enthusiasm varies with the engagement and appreciation of the students.

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