“In other words, flow is a state of arousal, but it is accompanied not by the shallow respiration characteristic of mental effort but rather by the deep respiration typical of joyous states. This is compatible with our proposal that the flow state is the result of an interaction between positive affect and attention.”
in B. Bruya (ed.) Effortless attention: a new perspective in the cognitive science of attention and action.
One of the main concepts in my current work is that of Flow and/or Optimal Experience. Although they are used to define the same kind of subjective experience, the way of studying and operationalizing them has brought the question whether, in fact, they represent the same experience. However, the aim of this particular post is to give an overview of what the flow experience is, and its implications on individual and social growth.
The Flow concept emerged from the work of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. He wanted to study those experiences when individuals are intrinsically motivated and fully engaged in an activity. The main question was not the why of doing these activities, but what and how their experience is. To study this experience, Csikszentmihalyi started by interviewing artists, rock climbers, among others about their work and leisure experiences. He asked them about the experiences individuals did for their own sake. Although the activities different individuals reported were different, a similar phenomenology emerged: intense concentration, enjoyment, and a sense of merging of action and awareness, and a desire to repeat the experience after one leaves it. In fact, the term “flow” was coined because of the way individuals described this experience as “flowing”. Continue reading