[Dimitri van der Linden] Flow: being in the zone

Dimitri van der Linden. Full Professor at the department of Work & Organizational Psychology – Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

|| Interview by ||
Tony Grisoni. Screenwriter (UK & Italy)
Vinca Wiedemann. Script-consultant & Story supervisor (Denmark)

Dimitri van der Linden is a full professor at the department of Work and Organizational Psychology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands). One of his lines of research involves the neuroscience of the peak experience of flow: A state of full task immersion. He also studies other psychological states such as mental fatigue and burnout. He is also engaged in research on individual differences in personality and ability.  

In his interview for the StoryTANK, Dimitri van der Linden addresses the key dimensions of the experience of the flow and, the motivational and attentional brain systems involved in the flow.

Flow is a state of full task engagement that is accompanied with low-levels of self-referential thinking (e.g. Worrying, self-reflection). Experiencing flow is accompanied with sense of accomplishment, meaningfulness, and positive mood states.

In order to experience flow, there are four key dimensions:

  • Match between a person’s skills and the task challenges: A too easy task more likely leads to boredom, rather than flow. A too difficult task often leads to frustration, stress or lack of interest, which are all states that are largely incompatible with flow
  • Strong attentional focus (task engagement or absorption): This implies the inhibition of task irrelevant stimuli or thoughts
  • Low levels of self-referential thinking: During flow, stress levels are low and so are worries and self- reflective thinking
  • Condensed perception of time: means that time seems to fly when people are in a flow. Dimitri and his colleague speculated that such flow-related changes in time perception may be linked to the reduced sense of self.