Reposted from the New York Times:
“Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist at the Claremont Graduate University, has been studying this phenomenon for decades. He calls it flow: the experience we have when we’re “in the zone.” During a flow state, people are fully absorbed and highly focused; they lose themselves in the activity.
But while we know intuitively that tasks we find interesting can feel effortless, what does it actually do to our mental gas tank? Can interest help us perform our best without feeling fatigued? My research with the psychologist Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia of Michigan State University, which we published recently in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests that it can.
Research also shows that social engagement in activities can foster interest. In a study I co-wrote in the Journal of Educational Psychology, we had middle school students play a math-focused video game either alone, in competition with another student or in collaboration with another student. Compared with those who played alone, those playing with a partner reported greater interest in the game and a stronger desire to master it.”