Recently I was witness to a musical stage show on Dussera evening. Show was very bad and people were soon disappointed. Showman was trying to engage audience by asking them to chant with him, raise their arms, clap, sing along, and repeat after him. While people in general found show flop, people in front rows near stage complied with his requests way more often than people in back rows, and one can see gradation in audiences’ response. One possible explanation is that people who bothered to sit in front were more excited and enthusiastic than others because of which they either came early to occupy front rows or made their ways to front later. This may explain initial enthusiasm but doesn’t explain continuing enthusiasm after show went on for a while and proved itself total disaster. To believe that front seaters found show more appealing than the rest doesn’t make sense unless an extraordinary coincidence of nature put together people with high enthusiasm and low threshold of acceptance together on that particular evening.
Alternative explanation, which I believe is more plausible, is that people in front were close to showman, and thus more in ‘contact’ with him than the rest. They were better equipped to see him and his antics in full, could catch his facial expression, and occasionally make an eye contact, specially when is urging them. Such close contact brings itself with obligation to comply. Even though both were stranger and non response wouldn’t entail future repercussions, natural human instinct forces one to comply with requests of other when made under eye contact. It is same instinct which forces one to smile at stupid joke of stranger and answer a question asked in general but looking at one in particular (viz. in classroom). Same instinct forces us to avoid eye contacts when we want to ignore someone. It would have been hard to ignore someone who so passionately asks you to raise your arms and sway when directly looking at you.