Experimental manipulation and downstream effects of flow
Kulkarni, Amey Sudhir
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Flow, also known as optimal experience, is a state of complete immersion with the activity at hand. It is marked by high challenge and high skill. Previous flow research has focused primarily on self-reports because there has been no experimental manipulation. We ran a study to validate our novel manipulation. Participants clicked on squares that appeared randomly on the computer screen. The squares appeared very slowly (boredom), very quickly (anxiety), or at a moderate pace (flow). Next, participants rated their feelings and indicated the amount of blame they assigned to an innocent victim. Participants who clicked on the moderately paced squares (but not the fast or slow squares) reported feelings of flow and assigned the highest blame to an innocent victim. Thus, we manipulated challenge and skill to produce experiences that fall within the flow channel. Although the phenomenological experience of flow is positive, it may have neagtive downstream effects.