Flow theory

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Flow theory

Flow is an innately positive experience; it is known to "produce intense feelings of enjoyment". An experience that is so enjoyable should lead to positive affect and happiness in the long run. Also, Csikszentmihályi stated that happiness is derived from personal development and growth – and flow situations permit the experience of personal development.


Acronym

n/a

Alternate name(s)

Flow

Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)

a mental state of complete absorption

Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)

situation, activity, high level of challenge, focused attention, high level of skill

Concise description of theory

a mental state of complete absorption with the activity at hand, a feeling of total engagement and immersion, a harmonious blend of high level of challenge, focused attention and high level of skill.

Studying the creative process in the 1960’s (Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi 1976[1]), Csikszentmihalyi was struck by a fact that when work on a painting was going well, the artists persisted single-mindedly. Disregarding hunger, fatigue and discomfort –yet rapidly lost interest in the artistic creation once it had been completed. Flow research and theory had their origin in a desire to understand this phenomenon of intrinsically motivated, or autotelic, activity: activity rewarding in and for itself, quite apart from its end product or extrinsic good that might result from the activity. Being in “in flow” is the way that some interviews describe the describe the subjective experience of engaging jut-manageable challenges by tackling a series of goals, continuously processing feedback about progress, and adjusting action based on feedback. Under these conditions experience seamlessly unfolds from moment to moment, and one enters a subjective state with the following characteristics

  • Intense and focused concentration on what one is doing in the present moment
  • Merging action and awareness
  • Loss of reflective self-consciousness (i.e., loss of awareness of oneself as a social sector)
  • As sense that one can control’s actions; that is, a sense that one can in principle deal with the situation because one knows how to respond to whatever happens next
  • Distortion of temporal experience (typically, a sense that time has passed faster than normal)
  • Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, such that often the end goal is just an excuse for the process. [2]

Diagram/schematic of theory

Getzels and Csikszentmihalyi 1976[1]

Seminal

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Play and Intrinsic Rewards. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15(3), 41-63.
Montgomery, H., Sharafi, P., & Hedman, L. R. (2004). Engaging in Activities Involving Information Technology: Dimensions, Modes, and Flow. Human Factors, 46(2), 334-348.
Qiu, L., & Benbasat, I. (2005). An Investigation into the Effects of Text-to-Speech Voice and 3D Avatars on the Perception of Presence and Flow of Live Help in Electronic Commerce. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 12(4), 329–355.
Hoffman, D. L. and T. P. Novak (2009). "Flow Online: Lessons Learned and Future Prospects." Journal of Interactive Marketing 23(1): 23-34.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New Yprk: Harper Collins.[3]

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & LeFevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of personality and social psychology56(5), 815.[4]

Originating area

Positive psychology, Education

Level of analysis

Individual and Group

IS articles that use the theory

Agarwal, R., & Karahanna, E. (2000). Time Flies When You’re Having Fun: Cognitive Absorption and Beliefs About Information Technology Usage. MIS Quarterly, 24(4), 665-694.
Koufaris, M. (2002). Applying the Technology Acceptance Model and Flow Theory to Online Consumer Behavior. Information Systems Research, 13(2), 205-223.
Hsu, C.-L. and H.-P. Lu (2003). "Why Do People Play On-Line Games? An Extended TAM with Social Influences and Flow Experience." Information and Management 41(7): 853–868.
Kamis, A., Koufaris, M., & Stern, T. (2008). Using an Attribute-Based DSS for User-Customized Products Online: An Experimental Investigation. MIS Quarterly, 32(1), 159-177.Lowry, Paul Benjamin, Gaskin, James, Twyman, Nathan W., Hammer, Bryan, and Roberts, Tom L. (2013). “Taking ‘fun and games’ seriously: Proposing the hedonic-motivation system adoption model (HMSAM),” Journal of the Association for Information Systems (JAIS), vol. 14(11), 617–671.
Lowry, Paul Benjamin, Jenkins, Jeffrey L., Twyman, Nathan W., Hammer, Bryan, Gaskin, James, and Hassell, Martin (2008). “Proposing the hedonic affect model (HAM) to explain how stimuli and performance expectations predict affect in individual and group hedonic systems use,” Proceedings of the Journal of the Association for Information Systems Theory Development Workshop at the International Conference on Systems Sciences, Paris, France, December 13. All Sprouts Content, vol. 8(24), paper 230, pp. 1–51.
Lowry, Paul Benjamin, Twyman, Nathan W., Gaskin, James, Hammer, Bryan, Bailey, Aaron, and Roberts, Tom L. (2007). “Proposing the interactivity-stimulus-attention model (ISAM) to explain and predict enjoyment, immersion, and adoption of purely hedonic systems,” Proceedings of the Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction 2007 Pre-ICIS Workshop at the International Conference on System Sciences, Montréal, Canada, December 8, paper 11, pp. 72–76 (best-paper nomination) http://aisel.aisnet.org/sighci2007/11/.

Webster, J., Trevino, L. K., & Ryan, L. (1993). The dimensionality and correlates of flow in human-computer interactions. Computers in human behavior9(4), 411-426.[5]

Choi, D. H., Kim, J., & Kim, S. H. (2007). ERP training with a web-based electronic learning system: The flow theory perspective. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies65(3), 223-243.[6]

Shin, D. H., & Kim, W. Y. (2008). Applying the technology acceptance model and flow theory to cyworld user behavior: implication of the web2. 0 user acceptance. CyberPsychology & Behavior11(3), 378-382.[7]

Webster, J., Trevino, L. K., & Ryan, L. (1993). The dimensionality and correlates of flow in human-computer interactions. Computers in human behavior9(4), 411-426.[8]

Links from this theory to other theories

Hedonic-motivation system adoption model (HMSAM)

External links

Flow

Original Contributor(s)

Arnold Kamis, Csikszentmihalyi.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Getzels, J. W., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1976). The creative vision.
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M.(2014). Flow and the foundations of positive psychology: the collected works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Springer.
  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New Yprk: Harper Collins.
  4. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & LeFevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of personality and social psychology56(5), 815.
  5. Webster, J., Trevino, L. K., & Ryan, L. (1993). The dimensionality and correlates of flow in human-computer interactions. Computers in human behavior9(4), 411-426.
  6. Choi, D. H., Kim, J., & Kim, S. H. (2007). ERP training with a web-based electronic learning system: The flow theory perspective. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies65(3), 223-243.
  7. Shin, D. H., & Kim, W. Y. (2008). Applying the technology acceptance model and flow theory to cyworld user behavior: implication of the web2. 0 user acceptance. CyberPsychology & Behavior11(3), 378-382.
  8. Webster, J., Trevino, L. K., & Ryan, L. (1993). The dimensionality and correlates of flow in human-computer interactions. Computers in human behavior9(4), 411-426.