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Flow, performance and moderators of challenge-skill balance

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Abstract

The concept of flow is briefly reviewed and several theoretical and methodological problems related to flow research are discussed. In three studies, we attempted to avoid these problems by measuring the experience of flow in its components, rather than operationally defining flow in terms of challenge and skill. With this measure, we tested the assumption that experience of flow substantially depends on the balance of challenge and skill. This assumption could only be partially supported, and, as expected, this relationship was moderated by the (perceived) importance of the activity and by the achievement motive. Furthermore, flow predicted performance in two of the three studies.

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Notes

  1. Later on, other authors separated some of the components and considered “autotelic” or “intrinsically rewarding” experience as a component of flow (e.g. Jackson and Eklund 2002; Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi 2005). We also consider flow as a rewarding experience for which people strive but do not consider it as a separate or additional component (see also the last two paragraphs discussion section).

  2. Massimini and colleagues proposed an eight- and even 16-channel model (e.g. Massimini and Carli 1988). The models are refined extensions of the quadrant model, having the same theoretical implication.

  3. Hope of success is equivalent to the achievement motive as measured by Atkinson (1957).

  4. Regression analysis with difficulty and skill showed a total explained variance of the perceived balance of 54%. There was a reliable main effect of difficulty and skill of similar magnitude, β = −0.42, t(244) = −8.32, p < 0.01, β = 0.36, t(243) = 7.16 p < 0.01, and a significant interaction, β = −0.25, t(242) = 5.67, p < 0.01.

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Correspondence to Stefan Engeser.

Appendix—Flow Short Scale

Appendix—Flow Short Scale

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Engeser, S., Rheinberg, F. Flow, performance and moderators of challenge-skill balance. Motiv Emot 32, 158–172 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-008-9102-4

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