Ecological and Motivational Determinants of Activation: Studying Compared to Sports and Watching TV
ABSTRACT How can we enhance activation? Studying shouldbe a challenging, yet rewarding activity forstudents who intend to graduate. The Flowtheory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 1997) predictsthat differential levels of perceived challengeand skill (flow) are related to optimizedmental states and increased activation.However, the influence of concurrent mentalstates and specific environmental cues for thisstate of optimal experience is unknown. In thisstudy we explore the contextual and subjectivedeterminants of flow in relation to activationin studying, and compare this with sports andwatching TV or listening to the radio. Method: 43 undergraduate students at theUniversity of Maastricht were assessed with theExperience Sampling Method for one week(Delespaul, 1995). At random moments 10 timeseach day subjects evaluated the social context,activities, and mood states. Analyses were donewith multilevel random regression techniques.Results: We replicated the predictedflow-related patterns in activation andemotions. While overall activation wasincreased in high challenging moments( = 0.51; 95% CI: 0.36, 0.19), thiseffect was less pronounced during study( = –0.16; 95% CI: –0.25, –0.07). Skillslevels did not affect activation( = –0.01; 95% CI: –0.06, 0.05).Concurrent emotions were independently andadditionally related to activation(2
(4) = 117.12,p < 0.0001).="" unexpectedly,="" activation="" increasedwith="" demotivation=""> = –0.12; 95% CI:0.16, 0.07). We found highly significant andadditional effects of context for all theactivities (study: 2 = 732.63;p < 0.0001;="">2 = 0.30; active leisure:2 = 753.40; p < 0.0001;="">2 = 0.31;and passive leisure: 2 = 555.86;p < 0.0001;="">2 = 0.24). Conclusions. TheFlow theory is a valuable model leading topredictions of optimal experience as well asactivation. However, the dynamics of activityengagement are more complex and related toconcurrent emotions and context. In the Dutchstudent culture, escaping boredom or compulsoryduties seems to drive individuals more thanpursuing flow.