Flow Symposium 2019

at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics

Date:June 4 – 5, 2019

Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics,
Grüneburgweg 14, 60322, Frankfurt am Main, Germany


“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person's capacity […].” – this quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (2001), one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology, illustrates how a person can find pleasure in an activity and become completely engaged with it. In artistic contexts – whether it is creating, performing, or receiving art – enjoyment of the activity in its own right plays a central role. By studying artists, who show a high degree of dedication to their craft regardless of external rewards, Csikszentmihalyi discovered a specific state of mind associated with such intrinsic enjoyment: Flow.

Nowadays Flow is not only a popular term people use in their everyday language to refer to the feeling of “being in the zone” while doing something. It is also the object of an ever-evolving research field, sparking scientific interest amongst scholars from a wide range of disciplines such as psychologists, neuroscientists, and health scientists. In this symposium we will bring together experts in Flow research, to present and discuss recent advances and future directions of the field. The symposium’s main focus is on Flow in the context of art, music, and creativity, but also on psychophysiological and neurophysiological indicators of Flow, as well as on motivational and interindividual factors contributing to this experience. We are looking forward to two interesting days of scientific presentations and debate!


Attendance is free; guest attendees are kindly asked to informally pre-register via mail to birte.thissen@ae.mpg.de


Birte Thissen and Michael Wagner

List of speakers (in alphabetical order)

Arnold Bakker (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Alice Chirico (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart Milan/Brescia, Italy)

Genevieve Cseh (Buckinghamshire New University, England)

Kelsey Finnley (Claremont Graduate University, USA)

László Harmat (Linnaeus University Växjö, Sweden)

David Harris (University of Exeter, England)

Johannes Keller (University of Ulm, Germany)

Örjan de Manzano (Karolinska Institute Stockholm, Sweden)

Corinna Peifer (Ruhr University Bochum, Germany)

Birte Thissen (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics Frankfurt, Germany)

Fredrik Ullén (Karolinska Institute Stockholm, Sweden)

Martin Ulrich (University of Ulm, Germany)

Regina Vollmeyer (Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)

Michael Wagner (University of Ulm, Germany)

René Weber (University of California Santa Barbara, USA)

Conference schedule

Day 1: Tuesday, June 4

09:50 – 10:10Welcome Reception
10:10 – 11:30

Session 1: Flow and Motivation

Is it Possible to Measure Flow during Writing a Criminal Story? Regina Vollmeyer

Creating Flow at Work through Job Crafting and Playful Work Design Arnold Bakker

13:00 – 15:00

Session 2: Flow and Psychophysiology

On the Physiology of Flow Experiences Corinna Peifer

Optimal Reading Experiences: Flow and its Psychophysiological Indicators in Fiction Readers Birte Thissen

A Cardiovascular Analysis of the Flow Experience Michael Wagner

15:15 – 17:15

Session 3: Flow and Creativity

Flow Experience, Creativity, and Synchronized Interactions during Group-based Problem-solving Tasks László Harmat

The Thrills and Anxieties of Uncertainty: Paradoxes and Motivators of Flow in Visual Creativity Genevieve Cseh

Flow Proneness predicts Individual Differences in Creative Achievement even among Professional Musicians Örjan de Manzano

18:00 – 19:30

Public Keynote: Flow and Personality

The Flow Nexus: Individual Variation in Flow Proneness and its Correlates Fredrik Ullén

Day 2: Wednesday, June 5

09:30 – 10:50

Session 4: Flow and Art

From Individual Flow to Group Flow in Music: Taking Stock Alice Chirico

The Aesthetic Experience as Flow: Relationships with Well-Being Kelsey Finnley

11:00 – 12:00Poster Session
13:00 – 15:00

Session 5: Flow and Neurophysiology

The Synchronization Theory of Flow: Neuropsychological Evidence and the Theory’s Future in the Field of Neuroaesthetics René Weber

The Neural Signature of Flow Martin Ulrich

Is Flow really Effortless? Examining the Role of Executive Attention in ‘the Zone’ David Harris

15:00 – 16:00

Open Discussion

Johannes Keller

16:00 – 16:15Farewell
17:00 – 18:00Voluntary Guided Tour of the Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty
Exhibition at the Museum of Applied Arts

Travel Information 

The institute is located in the Westend Carree building at Grüneburgweg 14. The closest subway station, “Grüneburgweg”, can be reached by taking the U1, U2, U3, or U4. From Frankfurt Main Station, please first take the U4 or U5 to “Willy-Brandt-Platz” and from there change into one of these lines (not in the direction of “Südbahnhof”, but in the respective other direction).

To get to the institute from Frankfurt Main Airport, please take the S8 or S9 in the direction of “Hanau”, get off at “Hauptwache”, and change into the U1, U2, U3, or U4 (again, any other direction than “Südbahnhof”).

By car, coming from the motorway A 5, take the A 66 in direction "F-Miquelallee / F-Stadtmitte" at Autobahnkreuz (interchange) Nordwestkreuz Frankfurt, continue on Miquellallee / B 8, turn right into "Eschersheimer Landstraße", and then turn right again into “Grüneburgweg”. Have a safe journey!