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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Jay Jackson


Department of Psychology

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of Psychology


Flow has been conceptualized as an intrinsically rewarding state of optimal experience that is enjoyable and uplifting. People who experience flow become so absorbed in what they are doing they lose temporal and self-awareness. Flow has been associated with a host of positive emotional and behavioral outcomes. In an effort to understand the determinants of flow, much research has focused on personality traits. For example, several studies have shown that people who are extraverted tend to exhibit high flow propensity, while introverts tend to exhibit relatively less flow propensity. We think this extraversion-flow link is potentially misguided because it does not consider the powerful role that situations can play in determining a wide-range of psychological states, including the extent to which introverts and extraverts experience flow. Our main proposition is that extraverts will tend to experience greater flow in group situations and less flow in solitary situations, while introverts will tend to experience greater flow in solitary situations, and less flow in group situations. We also explored several other potential personality-situation interactions on flow propensity. To test our predictions, we asked participants (N = 195) to complete an online questionnaire. They completed a measure of introversion-extraversion and other personality traits. They then completed two measures of flow (The Flow Questionnaire, the Flow Proneness Questionnaire). Finally, participants indicated the extent to which they had experienced flow in 25 different situations, including social group situations (e.g., attending a concert with friends, going to a party), and solitary situations (e.g., reading an enjoyable book, writing a research paper). Our primary hypotheses were supported. Extraverts were significantly more likely to experience flow in social group situations than in solitary situations, while introverts were significantly more likely to experience flow in solitary situation than in social group situations. We also identified several other interesting personalitysituation interactions on flow propensity. Research suggests that flow is psychologically healthy state. It is therefore useful to identify the variables that determine or predict flow. Rather than emphasizing the role of personality characteristics, which is the dominant focus amongst flow scholars, our research suggests that a concurrent consideration of both personality and situational forces is necessary to fully understand the dynamics of flow.

Psychological Flow and Personality