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Physiological correlates of the flow experience during computer game playing
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stress Research Institute. (Epidemiologi)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
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Number of Authors: 6
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Psychophysiology, ISSN 0167-8760, E-ISSN 1872-7697, Vol. 97, no 1, 1-7 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Flow is the subjective experience of effortless attention, reduced self-awareness, and enjoyment that typically occurs during optimal task performance. Previous studies have suggested that flow may be associated with a non-reciprocal coactivation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems and, on a cortical level, with a state of hypofrontality and implicit processing. Here, we test these hypotheses, using the computer game TETRIS as model task. The participants (n = 77) played TETRIS under three conditions that differed in difficulty (Easy < Optimal < Difficult). Cardiac and respiratory activities, and the average oxygenation changes of the prefrontal cortex were measured continuously with functional near infrared spectroscopy (INIRS) during performance. The Optimal condition was characterized by the highest levels of state flow, positive affect, and effortless attention. The associations between self-reported psychological flow and physiological measures were investigated using a series of repeated measures linear mixed model analyses. The results showed that higher flow was associated with larger respiratory depth and lower LF. The higher respiratory depth during high flow is indicative of a more relaxed state with an increased parasympathetic activity, and thus provides partial support for the main hypotheses. There was no association between frontal cortical oxygenation and flow, even at liberal thresholds; i.e. we found no support that flow is related to a state of hypofrontality.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 97, no 1, 1-7 p.
Keyword [en]
Autonomous nervous system, Effortless attention, Heart rate variability, Hypofrontality, Functional near-infrared spectroscopy, Psychological flow
National Category
Psychology Basic Medicine
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-119130DOI: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2015.05.001ISI: 000356549300001Local ID: P-3265OAI: diva2:843769
Available from: 2015-07-31 Created: 2015-07-29 Last updated: 2015-08-19Bibliographically approved

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Theorell, TöresHögman, LennartFischer, Håkan
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