Flow is a motivational state occurring when one’s skill level is balanced with the challenge of a task, leading to optimal performance and profound enjoyment. Its connection with optimal performance has drawn interest in fields focused on performance—such as sports, education, and work—and its connection with enjoyment has drawn interest in fields focused on subjective well-being, such as leisure and mental health. Facilitation of flow can involve both personality traits that promote it and those that hinder it, such as reactance . Reactance occurs when one perceives either a threat to a freedom or its actual loss, leading to behaviors directed toward restoring that lost/threatened freedom. Reactance is negatively correlated with personality traits such as openness and positively correlated with neuroticism and anxiety, whereas flow is positively correlated with openness and negatively related with neuroticism and anxiety. After comparing several structural equation models using a sample of 369 postsecondary students, a first-order confirmatory factor analysis model was retained. Results indicated negative correlations between most flow factors and two of four reactance factors (resentment of authority and tolerance of conflict), and positive correlations with the remaining two (resistance to influence and preservation of freedom). Thus the strength and direction of the association between flow and reactance depend on the factors involved. These findings reflect a complex relationship between flow and reactance and provide insight into how optimal performance and subjective well-being can be better facilitated.
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This research is based in part on data reported at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association and the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association.
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This research was supported in part by a grant from the Dalee Fund, Division of Counseling and Educational Psychology, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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Marszalek, J.M., Hager, P.L., Anderson, J.N. et al. Interrelationships Among Dimensions of Flow and Reactance. J Happiness Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00371-8