Models of concentration in natural environments: A comparative approach based on streams of experiential data

Giovanni B. Moneta1, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi2
1The Chinese University of Hong Kong, United States
2The University of Chicago, United States
Cite this article:  Moneta, G., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Models of concentration in natural environments: A comparative approach based on streams of experiential data. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 27, 603-638.

Volume 27 Issue 6 | e1000 | Published: December 1999 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1999.27.6.603

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In this paper we investigated a prediction from flow theory according to which subjective feelings of concentration depend on the balance between perceived challenges posed by a task and one’s perceived skills in mastering the task. The goal was to compare 3 different formalizations of balance (crossproduct, absolute difference, and quadratic effects of challenges and skills following a rotation of the predictor axes) with respect to how well each model predicts everyday life self-reports of feelings of con-centration, which were obtained with the experience sampling method from 208 talented high school students. Multilevel modeling with first-order autocorrelation structure was used throughout the model comparison. All models fitted reasonably well, accounting for nearly half of the variance. With reference to simple goodness-of-fit criteria, we concluded that both the rotated and the absolute difference models are to be preferred. Lastly, we discussed and compared the implications of the models for teaching, and outlined extensions toward dynamic modeling and external modeling, by relating the subject-specific effects of challenges and skills and of their balance with non-experiential variables such as personality traits and achievement measures.


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