Scientific article
Open access

A video-game-based method to induce states of high and low flow

Publication date2023-10-20
First online date2023-10-20

Flow has been defined as a state of full immersion that may emerge when the skills of a person match the challenge of an activity. It is a special case of being on task, as during flow, keeping focused on the task feels effortless. Most experimental investigations of the neural or physiological correlates of flow contrast conditions with different levels of challenge. Yet comparing different levels of challenge that are too distant may trigger states where the participant is off task, such as boredom or frustration. Thus, it remains unclear whether previously observed differences ascribed to flow may rather reflect differences in how much participants were on task—trying their best—across the contrasted conditions. To remedy this, we introduce a method to manipulate flow by contrasting two video game play conditions at personalized levels of difficulty calibrated such that participants similarly tried their best in both conditions. Across three experiments (> 90 participants), higher flow was robustly reported in our high-flow than in our low-flow condition (mean effect size d = 1.31). Cardiac, respiratory, and skin conductance measures confirmed the known difference between a period of rest and the two on-task conditions of high and low flow, but failed to distinguish between these latter two. In light of the conflicting findings regarding the physiological correlates of flow, we discuss the importance of ensuring a low-flow baseline condition that maintains participants on task, and propose that the present method provides a methodological advance toward that goal.

  • Effort
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Psychological flow
  • Psychophysiology
  • Video game
Citation (ISO format)
JOESSEL, Freya, PICHON, Swann Jean Antoine, BAVELIER, Daphné. A video-game-based method to induce states of high and low flow. In: Behavior research methods, 2023. doi: 10.3758/s13428-023-02251-w
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1554-351X

Technical informations

Creation12/07/2023 8:00:51 AM
First validation12/21/2023 3:10:38 PM
Update time12/21/2023 3:10:38 PM
Status update12/21/2023 3:10:38 PM
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