Deep, effortless concentration: re-examining the flow concept and exploring relations with inattention, absorption, and personality

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Abstract

Conceptualizing the construct of flow in terms of ‘deep and effortless concentration’, we developed two measurement scales designed to index individual differences in flow during ‘internal’ tasks, such as thinking (deep effortless concentration: internal—DECI) and during ‘external’ tasks, such as while playing a sport (deep effortless concentration: external—DECE). These scales were highly correlated, indicating that individuals prone to experiencing flow in external contexts are also prone to experience flow in internal contexts. Nonetheless, a measurement model construing internal and external flow as related, but separate, constructs was found to fit the data significantly better than a model where they were construed as a single construct. We then explored associations between flow and various forms of everyday inattention. In addition, we explored the relation between flow and the Tellegen Absorption Scale (TAS), an index of absorption, as well as the Big Five personality traits. Amongst other things, we found that flow was negatively related to inattention, indicating that people who experience flow more frequently may experience relatively less inattention in everyday contexts.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Dr. Erik Woody for his helpful and insightful comments on an earlier version of this paper. As well, we wish to thank three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions on our manuscript. This research was supported by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) discovery grant awarded to Daniel Smilek, a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology awarded to Jeremy Marty-Dugas.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The data generated and analyzed for the current study are available online in the database Open ICPSR. The title is Deep, Effortless Concentration: Re-examining the Flow Concept and exploring relations with Inattention, Absorption, and Personality—September 2017, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The persistent link for this data is  https://doi.org/10.3886/E100982V1. The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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