The goal of clapping during Duke TIP (more West) is far past normal, appreciative applause. In fact, it is used as a nearly mind-controlling device. How does this happen? It comes from the deep roots of human social instinct, maybe, or maybe not.
Otherwise, this nonsense is simple. It occurs primarily in the Great Hall, although other locations are possible (but probably less successful). One group starts clapping and when successful, it spreads to those outside the group like Swine flu. This may render the whole of the dining hall to applause. Strategy can be to have two or three outside the main group to clap, thus stimulating those outside to join if their local peers do.
An alternative is singing Happy Birthday, especially when it isn't actually the person's birthday. Such fallacious celebration happened two times to a single TIPster in West (Term I 2009).
Also in Term 1 2009, "clapping" happened around five to six times in the three weeks. The first day unintentionally triggered it during an ultimate frisbee game, after breakfast in the main Quad. Those under the Asian tree and a certain squad were suspected for a majority of the term's.
During 2009, bouts of clapping were also quite common as were the spontaneous rounds of Happy Birthday. This was sung multiple times, but whether or not most of the peoples' birthdays were real is still unknown.
A variation of clapping used at Duke East is to clap loudly after every sentence that a speaker says during orientation.