A reversal theory exploration of flow process and the flow channel

Jonathan Wright, S. Wright, Gaynor Sadlo, Graham Stew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article follows on from a previous discussion paper Exploring optimal experiences: A reversal theory perspective of flow and occupational science, which argued the utility of reversal theory for increasing understanding of optimal experiences of engagement in occupation. Flow has been argued to be an optimal experience that occurs when people get so absorbed in what they are doing that they lose track of time and forget everything else. This flow channel was explored by including participants who had different self-reported skill levels in one occupation, playing a guitar. Six guitarists, who were either considered to be novice, intermediate or expert, participated in the study. Participants maintained a flow journal for a 2-week period and were interviewed approximately 1-week later. Analysis of the interview data determined the variance in what was described as flow. Reversal theory was used to frame the analysis, as it was consistent with previous findings that suggest human experience is dynamic and that there is more than one type of optimal experience. The findings of the present study suggest that the key to different optimal experiences of occupation is not a challenge/skills balance, but the combinations of metamotivational states that are at the forefront of attention, the levels of arousal and felt transactional outcomes. Those findings support the view that reversal theory may enhance the understanding of optimal experiences of occupation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Occupational Science
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2012


  • Flow
  • Optimal experience
  • Occupation
  • Reversal theory
  • Guitar playing


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