Skip to main content

Cognitive Flow


Optimal experience

Definitions of Flow

Flow is a predominantly cognitive state of deep concentration and task absorption that makes a person feel one with the activity. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1975/2000) identified flow in the early 1970s by interviewing surgeons, rock climbers, composers, dancers, chess players, and athletes and asking them to report their experience when they engaged in the most challenging phases of their preferred endeavors. The interviews produced rich textual descriptions that shared six main themes: (1) focused concentration on the present activity, with centering of attention on a narrow stimulus field (e.g., “When I start, I really do shut out the world”), (2) merging of action and awareness (e.g., “I am so involved in what I am doing… I don’t see myself as separate from what I am doing”), (3) loss of self-consciousness (e.g., “I am less aware of myself and my problems”), (4) sense of controlover one’s own actions (e.g., “I feel immensely strong”),...

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Giovanni B. Moneta .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 Springer International Publishing AG

About this entry

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this entry

Moneta, G.B. (2018). Cognitive Flow. In: Vonk, J., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-47829-6

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-47829-6

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences

Chapter History

  1. Latest

    Cognitive Flow
    07 December 2018


  2. Original

    Cognitive Flow
    30 October 2017