The Flow Scales


Assessing Flow: The Flow Scales

Most people would agree that being in flow is a great experience, but:

• How do we know when someone is experiencing flow, and what is it like when they are in this state?

• To what extent are your –athletes/students/employees/performers –absorbed in, and enjoying, what they are doing?

The Flow Scales can provide answers to questions such as these. The Flow Scales assess the optimal psychological experience of flow – an experience involving total absorption in the task at hand. When in flow, one acts with confidence and ease, and usually at superior levels of performance. The Flow Scales have been used in a wide range of performance settings. We have developed a suite of scales – the Long, Short, and Core Flow Scales – providing a range of instrumentation to suit a diversity of research and applied purposes including in:

• Performance domains, such as sport, music, arts

• Work settings

• Free time activities and hobbies

• School settings

“The different versions of the Flow Scales provide complementary, but non-overlapping ways to assess flow. The scales are useful for assessing individuals’ flow experiences and also for the design of interventions aimed at more structured approaches to developing flow. Together, the Flow Scales provide useful tools for diverse research goals, and are also relevant to practitioners interested in enhancing outcomes that are related to being in flow.” – Susan Jackson, Robert Eklund, Andrew Martin, The FLOW Manual

The Flow Scale Suite

The Flow Scales are used to assess flow, and have been developed and validated by Dr Sue Jackson and colleagues. One general characteristic of this approach to assessing flow has been to do so at two levels:

1. Dispositional level: Frequency of flow experience in particular domains (e.g., sport, work, school) –these are known as the Dispositional versions of the flow scales.

2. State level: Extent of flow experienced in a particular event or activity (e.g., a race, a work project, or a test) –these are known as the State versions of the flow scales.

The dispositional and state flow scales are parallel forms, with wording differences reflecting whether the disposition to experience flow (Dispositional), or a specific flow experience (State), is being assessed. All versions of the scales have been validated through confirmatory factor analyses, and the scales have demonstrated good psychometric properties.

There are three main flow instruments (each of which has a dispositional and a state version).

1. LONG Flow Scales

These 36-item instruments assess the nine key dimensions of flow. These nine dimensions have been described in detail in Csikszentmihalyi’s writings about flow. They are: challenge-skill balance, action-awareness merging (automaticity of actions), clear goals, unambiguous feedback (knowing how you are going), concentration on task at hand, sense of control, loss of self-consciousness (lack of worry about what others are thinking of you), a sense of time transformation, and autotelic (intrinsically enjoyable) experience.

The LONG Flow Scales (i.e., Dispositional & State) are particularly useful when a detailed picture of flow experience is important. LONG Flow provides a multidimensional approach that is grounded in Csikszentmihalyi’s conceptualization of flow. These scales are the instrument of choice for targeted interventions, and/or when a detailed understanding of the flow dimensions is important.

There are two versions of LONG Flow, which we have named LONG Flow-General, and LONG Flow-Physical. The Long Scales-Physical were the first versions to be developed. They were developed in sport and performance settings, and several items contain words related to movement and performance. Long Flow-General scales have minor wording changes to make them adaptable to a wide range of settings. Users intending to assess people who are performing in a sport or other movement-based context should select LONG Flow-Physical. Users intending to assess people whose activity does not involve movement or some sort of physical performance, should use the LONG Flow-General Scales.

2. SHORT Flow Scales

These 9-item Dispositional and State scales are abbreviated versions of LONG Flow. One item is used to represent each of the nine flow dimensions.

The SHORT Flow Scales provide a brief assessment of the nine-dimensional flow model. They offer a concise means of assessing the dimensional flow model, and are useful when research or practical constraints prevent use of a longer scale.

3. CORE Flow Scales

These 10-item Dispositional and State scales assess what it feels like to be in flow. The aim of these scales is to tap into the phenomenology of flow – consistent with original conceptualizations of subjective optimal experience underpinning flow.

The CORE Flow Scales focus on the flow experience from the performer’s perspective. They provide an assessment of what it feels like to be in flow, and complement the more analytically-derived LONG and SHORT Flow Scales. While LONG and SHORT Flow assess the factors that comprise and/or lead to flow, CORE Flow captures the central subjective experience.

Suggested Uses of the Flow Scales

•Research instrument for studying flow, and factors associated with flow, across a variety of settings, such as work, sport, hobbies, and school;

•Research tool for measuring the effects of interventions;

•As a stimulus for discussion in performance, training, and workshop settings;

•Practitioner tool for working with clients to understand their present potential to experience flow;

•Practitioner tool for working with clients to develop skills for increasing flow.


Order the Flow Scales

All versions of the Flow Scales, and a comprehensive accompanying FLOW Manual are available from Mind Garden, an independent psychological assessment publishing company. Click here to place an order for the Flow Scales and FLOW Manual.

Mind Garden provides three options for purchasing and administering the flow scales. You can order a paper form, a PDF/ electronic form, or Mind Garden can do your data collection via its online Response Data option.

Contact details for Mind Garden Inc.

Mind Garden, Inc. 855 Oak Grove Ave., Suite 215 Menlo Park, CA 94025 USA

By phone: Telephone: 1-650-322-6300 FAX: 1-650-322-6398