Flow: the experience of intrinsic motivation

Jeanne Nakamura, Dwight C. K. Tse, Shannon Shandland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Flow is an optimal psychological state characterized by the enjoyment of deep absorption in what one is doing. This psychological state is autotelic (i.e., rewarding in itself); experiencing flow intrinsically motivates individuals to engage in activities that are conducive to it. Research on the flow experience has shed light on the phenomenology of intrinsic motivation since Csikszentmihalyi (1975) first introduced the flow concept. This chapter (a) describes the dimensions and conditions of the flow experience, (b) reviews research on its psychological covariates, (c) highlights conceptual and operational differences among four flow-related constructs, (d) discusses theory and research on the temporal dynamics of flow experience, and (e) summarizes research on the neurophysiology of the flow state.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation
EditorsRichard Ryan
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780190666453
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2019


  • flow
  • flow experience
  • optimal experience
  • autotelic
  • intrinsic motivation

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