Motive congruency and it’s effect on flow experience

Head of the project:

Dipl.-Psych. Kaspar Schattke, Prof. Dr. Hugo M. Kehr

Description of the project:

Flow is a psychological state in which awareness and current action merge. Those experiencing flow during a particular task report feeling completely absorbed, loosing their sense of time and high levels of concentration. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1975), maintaining a balance between challenge (e.g. task difficulty) and personal skill is the most important component of the flow experience.
However, other researchers recently pointed out that personal motive systems may also be a crucial component of the flow experience. Rheinberg (2002) stated that people are more likely to experience flow when implicit motives match explicit motives. He refers to this as the flow hypothesis of motivational competence.
Recently, Kehr (2004) combined Csikszentmihalyi's (1975) and Rheinberg's (2002) approaches in his compensatory model of work motivation and volition. This model distinguishes three structural components of motivation: implicit motives, explicit motives and perceived abilities. Their congruence is associated with flow experience. Specifically, Kehr (2004) proposes that to experience flow the task related behaviour must be thematically congruent with actual affective preferences stemming from aroused implicit motives. Additionally, no competing cognitive preferences stemming from aroused explicit motives must be present. Finally, one must perceive one’s abilities as being sufficient to manage the task.
Challenging Csikszentmihalyi's (1975) traditional position, Kehr (2004) explicitly states that flow occurs even if the perceived abilities exceed the task demands. In other words, a small challenge could suffice for the flow experience, as long as all three components in the model are congruent. 
The aim of this research project is to empirically test Kehr’s (2004) propositions about flow experience. Three experiments will be conducted to systematically test the influence of the three model components on flow. Each study isolates and tests either implicit motives, explicit motives or perceived abilities independently, whilst keeping the other two components constant.