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Title:Does working together increase flow with age?
Author(s):Worm, Ted W
Director of Research:Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A. L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A. L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Hernandez, Manuel; Napolitano, Chris; Dolcos, Florin; Dolcos, Sanda M.
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Adult Development
Socioemotional Selectivity
Abstract:Improved understanding of the motivational precursors to maintaining an active lifestyle across the lifespan is key to the development of interventions supporting successful aging. One such motivational precursor is Flow, the optimal experience of an activity that is predicated on a perceived skill-challenge balance. The purpose of this research was to examine how the Flow experience is influenced by age differences in socioemotional motives. In the first study, participants were asked to recollect their experiences during specific activities that varied with respect to social purpose (communal or agentic) and social context (with others or individual) and to rate their Flow states during those activities. Older adults showed disproportionately enhanced Flow for communal activities, suggesting that with age, social motives may contribute relatively more to the experience of activity engagement. In the second study, within a laboratory setting, the Flow state was measured immediately following engagement with jigsaw puzzles in which the social condition (individually or with a familiar partner) and difficulty level (easy or difficult) were manipulated within subjects, such that all participants engaged in all conditions but in a counterbalanced order. Neural correlates of task engagement were explored by measuring recruitment of frontal regions using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Although no age difference was found in the effect of social condition or difficulty level, older adults reported higher levels of Flow when they were assigned to the paired social condition first, regardless of difficulty. Neural recruitment was greater in the individual condition than in the paired condition for both age groups; younger adults, but not older adult, showed enhanced neural recruitment with difficulty. Overall, the research suggested that the strength of the Flow experience is differentially influenced by the social environment with age, but more work is needed to understand the phenomenological experience of effortful engagement and the age differences therein.
Issue Date:2020-09-29
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Ted Worm
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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