Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, ArtLab Foyer
The Flow Nexus: Individual Variation in Flow Proneness and its Correlates
Being in Flow refers to the enjoyable experience of complete engagement with an activity. Children engrossed in playing, artists wholeheartedly devoted to their craft, athletes fully focused on their sports, and workers finding pleasure in fluently doing their job, are just a few examples of Flow. Fredrik Ullén, internationally renowned as both a concert pianist and a neuroscientist, will present scientific insights into what characterizes people who frequently experience Flow:
There are large individual differences in how frequently people have Flow experiences. This variation is likely to depend on situational variables, i.e. environmental opportunities to engage in Flow promoting activities, as well as trait differences in the proneness to experience flow.
Flow Proneness and its association with other variables have been the focus of several large-scale studies in recent years. This research shows that Flow Proneness is correlated with major personality dimensions, motivation, and emotional competence. Associations with cognitive ability, in contrast, are weak or nil.
Furthermore, Flow Proneness is associated with long-term engagement and creative achievement within a specific field. Finally, Flow Proneness correlates with several measures of psychological health, including lower levels of depressive symptoms at work and emotional exhaustion.
Here, I will summarize this literature and discuss possible underpinnings of the observed associations, with reference to results from twin modelling, as well as physiological and neuroimaging studies of Flow. In conclusion, I will suggest that Flow may be a critical ingredient in a psychologically sustainable engagement, where high commitment, creativity, and achievement go together with psychological wellbeing.
Keywords: Flow; Individual Differences; Personality; Creativity; Wellbeing
is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet Stockholm (Sweden). His research focuses on the neuropsychology of expertise and creativity, i.e. the various brain mechanisms that allow us to perform at a very high level within a specific field, and the roles of gene-environment interplay for the acquisition of such expertise. Most of this work uses music as a model domain, and the neuroscience of music as such is another major research interest of Prof. Ullén. Methodologically, his team combines neuroimaging with experimental psychology, and behavior genetic analyses. In addition to his career as a scientist, Prof. Ullén is internationally active as a concert pianist. He has performed as a soloist in leading festivals and concert venues in Europe, Canada, and the US and is represented on more than 20 CD records, many of which have received outstanding critics and awards from the international press. Professor Ullén is a fellow of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music (2007) and Academia Europaea (2017).