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Flow Theory

Anja Kalch and Helena Bilandzic


Flow is a state sustained by intrinsic motivation that describes the desirable experience of being completely immersed in an activity (→ Involvement with Media Content ), during which other stimuli present in the surroundings are not attended to ( Csikszentmihalyi 1988 ). The concept was originally proposed by Csikszentmihalyi (1975) as an explanation for the pleasurable feelings elicited by creative activities like painting or dancing, and the motivation to engage in them. In a state of “optimal experience” a person feels cognitively effective and wishes to maintain this enjoyable feeling. Csikszentmihalyi (1988) specified the concept by defining nine dimensions: a person that experiences flow is (1) fully concentrated on the specific task and experiences a (2) sense of control over the action. This is accompanied by (3) losing both awareness of oneself and one's surroundings and (4) track of time; as a consequence, (5) action and awareness appear to be merged. Whether flow occurs or not depends on the relationship between an individual's skill in carrying out a task and the challenges of the task. To experience flow, (6) skill level and challenge level must match. In this case, executing the task is (7) intrinsically rewarding and becomes autotelic. Activities that provide a clear goal-structure (8) and direct feedback (9) are most likely to create flow. In the context of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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