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Title: The role of attentional control in flow states
Author: Harris, David John
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis seeks to examine the state of flow, an experience of complete absorption in the present activity, to understand how changes in attention create this optimal focus. Flow is a somewhat paradoxical state of attention where increasing demands are met with an apparent decrease in effort. Studying this attentional anomaly may be informative for ‘normal’ attention, and how people may be able to find a peak focus more often. While athletes, artists and people in leisure and workplace settings report flow to be a state of intense concentration, there is very limited understanding of the attentional mechanisms that may be responsible for the state. Indeed, researchers are yet to take overt measures of attentional changes during flow to confirm that attention is indeed more focused. To address these issues, four studies were conducted to investigate whether the reported focus during flow was related to changes in visual attention across both sporting and computer gaming tasks. Principally these studies aimed to assess whether during flow individuals exhibit strong top-down attention control, and whether this is a key causal mechanism in the state of flow. Studies 1a (Chapter 2) and 2 (Chapter 3)provided initial evidence that flow may be related to trait attention control abilities and improved visual attention control in a sporting task. In a simulated driving task, study 3 (Chapter 4) demonstrated that during flow visual attention was more focused and attentional effort increased, despite relatively low perceived effort. Study 4 (Chapter 5) illustrated how appropriate focusing of attention may be a causal factor in creating flow, suggesting opportunities for training flow through attentional focusing techniques. Overall these studies indicate that attention, in particular the effortful processes of top-down control, may play an important role as a causal mechanism in the state of flow.
Supervisor: Wilson, Mark ; Vine, Samuel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available