Listening Topic: Psychology – Radio program about the concept of “flow”

A. Listen to the radio program. Then complete each statement with the correct ending.

1   Flow is described by a psychologist as a state of ____.

      a   optimal experience

      b   deep relaxation

2   A person can experience flow during ____.

      a   one or two types of activities only

      b   many different activities

3   Flow is ____.

      a   the same as feeling happy

      b   different from feeling happy

B. Listen again. Write T for true or F for false for each statement.

 The concept of flow was described by a psychologist.

 The psychologist describes being a chef in restaurant to explain flow.

 It is typical to lose a sense of time and to forget your problems when experiencing flow.

 Both skill and challenge are required to experience flow.

 You can experience flow in both physical and nonphysical activities.

 According to the speaker, watching TV is sometimes likely to produce flow.

 Reading is not a typical activity that produces flow.

8   It is possible to feel happy without experiencing flow.



1 a   2 b   3 b


1 T   2 F   3 T   4 T   5 T   6 F   7 F   8 T


A = Host, B = Dr. Lynette Han

A:   Hello, and welcome to our show. Our guest today is Dr. Lynette Han, a psychologist who does research into happiness. She spends a lot of time studying people’s level of enjoyment during various activities, and she’s especially interested in something called “flow.” Dr. Han, could you explain what flow is?

B:   Yes, it’s a concept described by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihlayi. He talks about states of optimal experience, where people say they experience feelings of deep concentration and enjoyment during activities.

A:   Can you give us an example?

B:   Of course. Do you have an activity that you really enjoy?

A:   Well I like a lot of sports and I love cooking.

B:   OK, take cooking. Think about making a meal. If you ever get so absorbed in preparing the food that you lose all awareness of time and other things around you – when you are concentrating so deeply that you completely forget all your problems – then you’re probably experiencing flow.

A:   Oh, I’ve had that happen, especially when I’m trying a new recipe.

B:   Yes, you’re more likely to experience flow with a new recipe because that challenges you. According to Dr. Csikszentmihlayi, one of the requirements for a state of optimal experience is that the activity has to be challenging and require skills. So, you would use your cooking skills in a new recipe and it would be challenging because you hadn’t done it before. Other requirements are deep concentration, a merging of action and awareness, a sense of control, clear goals, and immediate feedback.

A:   Are there only certain types of activities where this can happen, or can it happen with any activity?

B:   Well, flow can happen with a lot of different activities, from reading, to playing chess, to rock climbing; however, if you look at the requirements we just talked about, some activities wouldn’t fit. Think of watching TV, for example. You might concentrate deeply on watching a TV program, but there’s really no skill involved and it’s unlikely to be challenging. Dr. Csikszentmihlayi actually uses a chart to show the relationship between challenge and skill that is necessary for flow to happen. It involves low levels of boredom and worry, and high but balanced levels of skill and challenge.

A:   OK. I was a little surprised to see that reading is an activity that could create a state of flow, but now I understand. Reading involves some level of skill and challenge in terms of understanding language, whereas watching TV doesn’t typically offer that.

B:   Yes that’s right. Really there are so many activities that can lead to flow: singing, skiing, painting, and a lot of games that we play.

A:   Is experiencing flow the same as feeling happy?

B:   No, there’s definitely a difference. If you’re in a state of flow, you’re attention is so focused that you aren’t even aware of how you feel about the situation. Reflecting on whether you feel happy or not would mean you were out of flow. It’s only later, after the state has passed, that you can be aware of the pleasure of that state. So, in that way it’s different from flow. And you can feel happy without experiencing flow. For example, sitting on a beach might make you feel happy but not necessarily create a state of flow.

A:   Why does all this matter?

B:   Well, I believe, as Dr. Csikszentmihlayi does, that experiences of flow are pleasurable for people and contribute to quality of life. So, if people are more aware of which experiences produce this state, they can work toward including more of them in their lives.

A:   Well, thank you, Dr. Han. We’re going to take a break right now…

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