Flow Research

Abuhamdeh, S., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the competitive context: An examination of person-situation interactions. Journal of personality, 77(5), 1615-1635.doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00594.x.

Abuhamdeh and Csikszentmihalyi examined the way 121 volunteer adult internet chess players responded to the rewards they gained when playing through Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation Orientations as potential trait-level moderators. Players had, on average 27 years of chess-playing experience and all players were monitored for challenge using a numerical rating system corresponding to their skill level, as determined by the chess website. Results supported the predications that Intrinsic Motivation would be associated with a strong, curvilinear relationship between challenge and enjoyment, and that Extrinsic Motivation Orientation would be associated with a heightened affective responsibility to competitive outcome.

Key words: Flow, Challenge, Enjoyment, Intrinsic motivation, Extrinsic motivation, Work Preference Invento


Aherne,, C., Morgan, A. P., & Lonsdale, C. (2011). The effect of mindfulness training on athletes’ flow: An initial investigation. Sport Psychologist, 25(2), 177-189.

Aherne et al. sought to investigate the relationship between flow experiences and mindfulness training in national and international level athletes aged 19-25. 13 Athletes were randomly assigned to a control or experimental group, with both completing theCognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale – Revise (Feldman et al., 2007) during a quiet period at home, and the Flow State Scale-2 (Jackson &Eklund, 2002) immediately following a training sessions for their sport. The experimental, mindfulness group then completed six weeks of mindfulness training. After 6 weeks, both groups completed the CAMS-R and FSS-2 in the same manner as before. No significant difference was found between both group’s flow state scores during the initial training session, but a large difference was found between flow state scores of the control and mindfulness groups in the training session after the 6 weeks.

Keywords: Flow, Mindfulness, Sports training,


Asakawa, K. (2004). Flow experience and autotelic personality in Japanese college students: How do they experience challenges in daily life? Journal of Happiness Studies, 5(2), 123-154. doi: 10.1023/B:JOHS.0000035915.97836.89.

Asakawa conducted two studies using the experience sampling method with Japanese college students. The first looking at whether the challenge-skill balance was applicable to the sample and the second study exploring the autotelic personality alongside the challenge-skill balance in daily activities. In line with flow theory, the challenge-skill balance was an indication of a flow state for the Japanese college students. Students deemed to be autotelic were better at balancing challenges and skills. Moreover, a Japanese index of well-being and sense of fulfilment, Jujitsu-kan, was shown to be high during experiences of flow.

Keywords: Flow, Challenge-skill ratio, Jujitsu-kan, Autotelic personality,


Asakawa, K. (2010). Flow experience, culture, and well being: How do autotelic Japanese college students feel, behave, and think in their daily lives? Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 205-223. doi: 10.1007/s10902-008-9132-3.

This study examined 315 Japanese college students for autotelic personality, using frequency of flow as an indicator of the autotelic personality. The students who experienced flow more often in their daily lives were more likely to exhibit lower anxiety and self esteem than those experiencing ti less frequency. The students who experienced this higher frequency of flow, and thus indicated to have less of an autotelic personality, used more active coping strategies as opposed to passive coping strategies. Moreover, those students who experienced flow more regularly showed increased Jujitsu-kan (See Asawaka, 2004) and more active commitment to their college life, search for future careers, and daily activities.

Keywords: Flow, autotelic personality, culture, well-being, jujitsu-kan


Chen, L., Zhang, Y., & Chen, G. (2022). Flow Experience and Task Performance: The Moderating Role of Goal Orientation. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(2), 829-842.

This study examined the moderating role of goal orientation in the relationship between flow experience and task performance. Results showed that goal orientation moderated this relationship, such that the positive effect of flow experience on task performance was stronger for individuals with a learning goal orientation than for those with a performance goal orientation.

Keywords: Flow experience, task performance, goal orientation


Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Larson, R. (1987). Validity and reliability of the experience-sampling method. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 175(9), 526-536. doi: 10.1097/00005053-1987000-00004.

The experience sampling method was, for a number of years, the most widely used method for the study of flow experiences. Here Csikszentmihalyi and Larson present evidence for the validity and reliability of the ESM as an acceptable measure for psychological research in comparing ESM measures together and alongside other psychometric measures. This was an important step in establishing the ESM for use as a manner in which to study phenomenological psychological states such as the flow state. Practical and methodological issues of the ESM are also discussed.

Keywords: Experience sampling method , validity, reliability


Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. (1988). Optimal Experience: Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The optimal experience collection features a series of works around the late 1980s focusing on explorations of the flow model, its interactions with the self, the benefits of flow experiences, and cultural or lifestyle differences in the understanding of the flow state. Moreover, findings are presented from attempts to answer questions surrounding flow at work in comparison to leisure, any potential age or gender differences in experiences of flow, as well as the differences in our individual pursuits of flow including high risk behaviours.

Keywords: Flow, optimal experience, culture, work and leisure.


Csikszentmihalyi, M., & LeFevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56(5), 815-822. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.56.5.815.

In a study of adult workers, Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre questioned whether experiences of flow would differ between activities classified as work or leisure and which was more influential in facilitating flow for these individuals. 78 management and engineering, clerical, and blue-collar adult workers were followed for 1 week using an experience sampling form, taking 1-2minutes to complete the form whenever signalled through a pager. Whether in work or leisure, the quality of experience variables, excluding relaxation and motivation were all affected by flow. Most important to note is that a much greater number of flow experiences were reported in work as opposed to leisure, despite motivation being reported as higher in leisure whether or not the participants were in flow.

Keywords: Flow, ESM, Work and leisure, Work paradox.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1993). The evolving self. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Csikszentmihalyi, In what is considered by some to contain some of his most exemplary writings,  takes the reader through the benefit of experiencing flow in ways that not only benefit the self and immediate relationship but communities and humanity as a whole. The title includes such key positations as the experiencing flow as leading to integration and differentiation of the self, leading towards becoming a fully complex self and individual.

Keywords: Flow, integration, differentiation, community, evolving self


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. London: Rider.

In the widely recognised and classic work on how to achieve happiness in life through experiencing flow, Csikszentmihalyi presents the flow model in the early years of established positive psychology. ‘Flow’ is inclusive of a plethora of examples from leisure activities to family relationships, examples across ages, cultures, and genders, and even solitary lives that lead to daily flow. Csikszentmihalyi truly makes the concept of flow relatable and accessible to the reader.

Keywords: Flow, happiness


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2021). The Art of Flow: Ten Steps to Finding Happiness in a Wired World. HarperCollins.

This book explores the concept of flow and how it can lead to happiness in our modern, technology-driven world. The author presents ten steps that individuals can take to find flow and experience greater satisfaction in their lives.

Keywords: Flow, happiness, technology, satisfaction


DeManzano, K. N., & Wu, A. D. (2021). A Systematic Review of Flow in Physical Activity. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 43(1), 57-67.

This systematic review examined the literature on flow in physical activity. Results showed that flow is positively associated with physical activity, and that interventions aimed at promoting flow can increase physical activity.

Keywords: Flow, physical activity, intervention


Engeser, S., & Rheinberg, F. (2008). Flow, performance and moderators of challenge-skill balance. Motivation and Emotion, 32(3), 158-173.doi: 10.1007/s11031-008-9102-4.

In a collection of three studies Engeser and Rheinberg first asked 273 students to complete a measure of flow after an interrupted exam preparation task, secondly,  the same procedure was followed with 60 participants aged 14-49 during a computer game, and the thirdly asking 61 French language students to complete a flow measure after 60 minutes of class in the first and second semesters. Flow was able to predict performance in only two out of the set of three studies. Moreover, in an attempt to test the assumption that flow experiences depend predominantly on the challenge-skill balance, the authors found only partial evidence to support this assumption, with an individual’s achievement motive and their perceived importance of the activity moderating the relationship between the challenge-skill balance and flow.

Keywords: Flow, Challenge-skill balance, performance, achievement motive


Jackson, S. A., & Marsh, H. (1996). Development and validation of a scale to measure optimal experience: The flow state scale. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 18(1), 17-35.

Jackson and Marsh (1996) developed a psychometric measure labelled the Flow State Scale (FSS) for use in measuring flow states within sport and physical activity settings. 36 items across nine scales were designed to represent the nine dimensions of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model and were tested in a pilot of 252 respondents and a subsequent test with a sample of 394 athletes from 38 different nationalities. The FSS showed good internal consistency, with confirmatory factory analysis supporting the nine scales within the 36 items, and thus providing support for the existing nine characteristics of the flow model.

Keywords: Flow, scale development, FSS, characteristics of flow


Kim, M., & Kim, H. (2022). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Flow and Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(1), 267-284.

This study examined the effects of mindfulness meditation on flow and psychological well-being. Results showed that mindfulness meditation increased flow and psychological wellbeing, and that the relationship between mindfulness meditation and flow was partially mediated by psychological well-being.

Keywords: Mindfulness meditation, flow, psychological well-being


Park, S., Lee, K., & Park, J. (2021). The Effects of Flow on Prosocial Behavior: The Mediating Role of Positive Affect. Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(1), 89-98.

This study investigated the effects of flow on prosocial behaviour and the mediating role of positive affect. Results showed that flow was positively related to prosocial behaviour, and that positive affect partially mediated this relationship.

Keywords: Flow, prosocial behaviour, positive affect


Peifer, C., Schächinger, H., Engeser, S., & Antoni, C. H. (2014). Cortisol effects on flow-experience. Psychopharmacology, 1-8. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3753-5.

This study built upon previous findings indicating that after experiencing a social stress test and a subsequent flow experience, the flow experiences of male participants were characterised by moderate levels of two indicators of physiological arousal; sympathetic arousal and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation (Peifer, Schulz, Schächinger, Baumann, Antoni., 2014).  32 males and 32 females received a 20mg dose of coritsol on one day, and a placebo on another, participating in the computer game Pacman an hour after the cortisol or placebo were adminsitered. Results showed that when high cortical dosages are administered to male and female participants before having them engage in a flow task, that self reported flow state was impaired.

Keywords: Flow, cortisol, stress, arousal


Yoshida, K., Sawamura, D., Inagaki, Y., Ogawa, K., Ikoma, K., & Sakai, S. (2014). Brain activity during the flow experience: A functional near-infrared spectroscopy study. Neuroscience Letters, 573(1), 30-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2014.05.011.

In an attempt to provide some clarity on the theoretical assertions of the brain activity associated with flow experiences, Yoshida et al. examined 20 university students using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) during a computer game designed to induce the states of flow or boredom. During each task the fNIRS measured change in oxygenated blood levels in the frontal brain regions. Results revealed that the flow state was associated with increased activity in areas of the brain associated with functions such as emotion and reward processing.

Keywords: Flow, fNIRS, emotion, reward processing.








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