AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction


Flow theory suggests three flow conditions lead to flow: optimal challenges, clear goals, and immediate feedback. Previous research has only confirmed the link between optimal challenges and flow with controlled experiments. Inspired by Miller’s test-operate-test-exit (TOTE) units and Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory, we introduce a feedback loop of flow model of the cognitive processes that lead to flow in computer-based tasks. This model illustrates how the flow conditions come together to create the flow experience. In particular, the feedback loop of flow model we present suggests the feedback must be task-relevant to generate a flow state, which means there must be feedback that pertains to the goals of the task. We conducted a controlled experiment to test the causal relationship between task-relevant feedback and flow. Participants who experienced designs with task-relevant feedback rated their experience higher on a measure of flow than those in either the no feedback or randomized feedback control groups. Our findings provide evidence that feedback increases flow and specifically that designs with task-relevant feedback increase flow. We present a design for flow model and discuss design guidelines for how to create interactive systems that will facilitate users getting into a flow state. Task-relevant feedback communicates how well users are performing actions that make progress towards the goal of the optimally challenging task that is getting them into flow and how they can get better at that task. As with TOTE units, the feedback loop of flow is a recursive process, which suggests task-relevant feedback must be presented continuously and for each subtask of the overall task.





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