Theorizing flow and media enjoyment as cognitive synchronization of attentional and reward networks

René Weber, Ron Tamborini, Amber Westcott-Baker, Benjamin Kantor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

125 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article reconceptualizes the psychological concept of " flow" as it pertains to media entertainment. Our goal is to advance flow theory in ways that highlight the necessity of reliable and valid operationalization. We posit flow as a discrete, energetically optimized, and gratifying experience resulting from a cognitive synchronization of specific attentional and reward networks under condition of balance between challenge and skill. We identify video-game play as a context in which flow is likely to occur, and where we can observe our neurophysiological conceptualization of flow using measurement techniques (functional magnetic resonance imaging [fMRI]) without disrupting the experiential state. After presenting preliminary evidence consistent with our synchronization theory of flow, we suggest ways to advance this research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-422
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Theory
Volume19
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2009

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