How Flow Drives Creative Genius | The Rise of Superman – featuring Chase Jarvis

How Flow Drives Creative Genius | The Rise of Superman – featuring Chase Jarvis

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Descriptions: | Renowned artist and photographer Chase Jarvis stars in the third episode of The Rise of Superman video series. This episode explores how flow drives the creative process. Flow states silence our inner critic, allowing radical new ideas and ways of thinking to emerge.



About The Author:
Steven Kotler is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning Journalist, and cofounder and director of research for the Flow Genome Project. His books include The Rise of Superman, Abundance, A Small, Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and The Angle Quickest for Flight. His work has been translated into thirty languages and his articles have appeared in more than seventy publications, including New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Wired, and Forbes.

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The Rise of Superman | Official Trailer

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  1. The emotional risk an artist needs to take to experience flow is a profound insight. The only time I've experienced flow is when I did this, and I can attest to the fact that the feeling was real. Only, I'm not so sure I took that risk on purpose; the experience felt forced upon me. I'd like to know what other artists think of this??

  2. Flow, as defined by M. Csikszentmalyi, who is oddly not mentioned in this talk, defined flow as the result of a matching of skill and challenge. This corresponds to a slight moment to moment uncertainty in achieving a desired goal, and this always corresponds to the release of the neuro-modulator dopamine. And it has nothing to do with brain waves.

    The release of the neuro-modulator dopamine occurs when an individual experiences or anticipates the perception of positive unpredicted events. Dopamine fixes attention, stimulates learning, and is subjectively felt as a feeling of energy, arousal, timelessness, but not ironically of pleasure.

    Dopamine increases the momentary value or decision utility of behavior. If that moment to moment behavior conforms to its predicted utility or ending value, this attentive focus will be correlated with a state of relaxation that in turn elicits the release of endogenous opioids that are reflected in a feeling of pleasure. (For example, a creative artist working on a painting may feel energized and pleasurable in his activity)

    On the other hand, if the dopamine induced change in the decision utility of behavior is not coherent with the future or predicted utility of behavior, as in distraction due to novel but useless alternatives (e.g. accessing social media while on the job), then neuro-muscular activation or muscular attention will occur and result in pain, opioid release will stop, and the individual will report a subject state of unhappiness.

    Prediction: the behavior of keeping focused on task is the primary independent measure for happiness.

    Proof: Simply poll people randomly during that the course of their days, and those who are focused will feel happy and content, and those who are distracted will feel unhappy and discontented.

    This is exactly what the psychologist Matt Killingsworth did with over 15000 subjects who were polled randomly during various moments of their days. His discussion of his results are in the TED talk below.

    And my longer explanation here.

  3. Why the Flow Model is illogical: A contrarian perspective on Flow from the perspective of affective neuroscience

    On the surface, the graphical representation of the flow channel is simple to understand. When you arrange a demand/skill match, flow happens. For any task, the problem is that although demand moves up or down dependent upon the exigencies of the moment, skill should be relatively stable during or within the performance, and only change, and for the most part gradually between performances. Thus, one may accomplish a task that from moment to moment varies in demand, but the skills brought to that task are the same regardless of demand. What this means is that for any one-performance set, skill is not a variable, but a constant. That is, one cannot adjust skill against demand during performance because skill can only change negligibly during performance, or in other words does not move. Thus, for performance that requires any skill set, the only variable that can be manipulated is demand. For moment to moment behavior the adjustable variable that elicits flow is demand and demand alone. But that leaves us with figuring out what demand exactly is.
    A demand may be defined as simple response-outcome contingency. Thus, if you do X, Y will occur or not occur. It is thus inferred that demand entails a fully predictable means-end relationship or expectancy. But the inference that the act-outcome expectancy is always fully predictable is not true. Although a response-outcome is fully predictable when skill overmatches demand, as demand rises to match and surpass skill, uncertainty in the prediction of a performance outcome also rises. At first, the uncertainty is positive, and reaches its highest level when a skill matches the level of demand. This represents a ‘touch and go’ experience wherein every move most likely will result in a positive outcome in a calm or non-stressed state. It is here that many individuals report euphoric flow like states. Passing that, the moment-to-moment uncertainty of a bad outcome increases, along with a corresponding rise in tension and anxiety.
    Momentary positive uncertainty as a logical function of the moment to moment variance occurring when demand matches skill does not translate into a predictor for flow, and is ignored in Csikszentmihalyi’s model because uncertainty by implication does not elicit affect. Rather, affect is imputed to metaphorical concepts of immersion, involvement, and focused attention that are not grounded to any specific neurological processes. However, the fact that act-outcome discrepancy in relaxed states alone has been correlated with specific neuro-chemical changes in the brain that map to euphoric, involved, timeless , or immersive states, namely the co-activation of dopamine and opioid systems due to continuous positive act/outcome discrepancy and relaxation, narrows the cause of flow to abstract elements of perception rather than metaphorical aspects of performance. These abstract perceptual elements denote information and can easily be defined and be reliably mapped to behavior.
    A final perceptual aspect of demand that correlates with the elicitation of dopamine is the importance of the result or goal of behavior. Specifically, dopaminergic systems are activated by the in tandem perception of discrepancy and the predicted utility or value of result of a response contingency. The flow model maps behavior to demand and skill, but not only is skill fixed, so is the importance of the goal state that predicates demand. However, the relative importance of the goal state correlates with the intensity of affect. For example, representing a task that matches his skills, a rock climber calmly ascending a difficult cliff would be euphoric if the moment to moment result was high, namely avoiding a fatal fall, but would be far less so if he was attached to a tether, and would suffer only an injury to his pride is he were to slip. Finally, the flow experience correlates also with a state of relaxation and the concomitant activation of opioid systems along with a dopamine induced arousal state that together impart a feeling of euphoria, which would also be predicted as choices in flow are singular and clear and therefore avoid perseverative cognition. It is the sense of relaxation induced pleasure and a feeling of attentive arousal that constitutes the flow experience.

    I offer a more detailed theoretical explanation in pp. 47-52, and pp 82-86 of my open source book on the neuroscience of resting states, ‘The Book of Rest’, linked below.

    The Psychology of Rest