Are You “In the Zone” Or “Disconnected”?
An Investigation of Flow, Dissociative Absorption and Their Adaptive and Maladaptive Correlates
Keywords:dissociation, absorption, flow, self-efficacy, immersion, psychopathology, well-being
Objective: The terms dissociative absorption and flow describe tendencies to experience immersive consciousness states, yet dissociation is sometimes considered maladaptive whereas flow is typically considered to be adaptive. We explored their trait and state associations with psychopathology, game task performance, and mood, and examined the hypothesized moderation effect of self-efficacy. Method: In the present study, 303 undergraduates completed trait questionnaires and 63 high/low absorbers reported their state before and after an immersive task (“Tetris”). Task performance was also assessed. Results: We found that flow was distinguishable from dissociation but was inconsistent; two of its components (“transformation of time” (ToT) and “merging of action and awareness” (MoAA)) were positively associated with dissociation and psychopathology, and, unlike other flow components, were unrelated to enhanced task performance. Although the trait associations of ToT and MoAA with psychopathology were not dependent on self-efficacy levels, trait dissociation was more strongly related to psychopathology under low self-efficacy. In the state phase, state immersion (both ToT and dissociative absorption) was associated with mood improvement, especially under low self-efficacy. Conclusion: Our results prompt us to question the validity of flow as a cohesive construct, as measured by the Dispositional Flow Scale-2. Immersive experiences, including ToT and dissociative absorption, led to short-term mood improvement in the state phase but, considering their trait associations with psychopathology, engaging in them excessively may be maladaptive in the long term.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Sage.
Allen, J. G., Fultz, J., Huntoon, J., & Brethour, J. R., Jr. (2002). Pathological dissociative taxon membership, absorption and reported childhood trauma in women with trauma-related disorders. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 3(1), 89-110. https://doi.org/10.1300/J229v03n01_07
American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5) (5th ed.). APA. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
Asakawa, K. (2010). Flow experience, culture, and well-being: How do autotelic Japanese college students feel, behave, and think in their daily lives? Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(2), 205-223. DOI: 10.1007/s10902-008-9132-3
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.ژ https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191
Benight, C. C., & Bandura, A. (2004). Social cognitive theory of posttraumatic recovery: The role of perceived self-efficacy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 42(10), 1129-1148. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2003.08.008
Benight, C. C., Flores, J., & Tashiro, T. (2001). Bereavement coping self-efficacy in cancer widows. Death Studies, 25(2), 97–125. DOI: 10.1080/07481180125921
Benight, C. C., & Harper, M. (2002). Coping self-efficacy as a mediator for distress following multiple natural disasters. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(3), 177–186. doi: 10.1023/A:1015295025950
Boysan, M., Goldsmith, R. E., Cavus, H., Kayri, M., & Keskin, S. (2009). Relations among anxiety, depression, and dissociative symptoms: The influence of abuse subtype. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 10(1), 83-101. https://doi.org/10.1080/15299730802485185
Bregman-Hai, N., Abitbul-Gordon, S., Deutsch, I., Garbi, D., Shelef, L., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2018). Leave everything to the imagination: Cognitive functioning of individuals high in dissociative absorption and imaginative involvement. Journal of Research in Personality, 76, 129-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2018.08.004
Bregman-Hai, N., Kessler, Y., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2020). Who wrote that? Automaticity and reduced sense of agency in individuals prone to dissociative absorption. Consciousness & Cognition, 78, 102861. DOI: 10.1016/j.concog.2019.102861
Briere, J., Scott, C., & Weathers, F. (2005). Peritraumatic and persistent dissociation in the presumed etiology of PTSD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 162(12), 2295-2301.ژ doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.162.12.2295
Buchnik-Daniely, Y., Vannikov-Lugassi, M., Shalev, H., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2021). The path to dissociative experiences: A direct comparison of different etiological models. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 28(5), 1091-1102. https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2559
Butler, L. D. (2004). The dissociations of everyday life. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 5(2), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1300/J229v05n02_01
Butler, L. D. (2006). Normative dissociation. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 29(1), 45-62.ژ https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2005.10.004
Cardeña, E. (1997). The etiologies of dissociation. In S. Krippner & S. M. Powers (Eds.), Broken images, broken selves: Dissociative narratives in clinical practice (pp. 61–87). Brunner/Mazel.
Carleton, R. N., Abrams, M. P., & Asmundson, G. J. (2010). The attentional resource allocation scale (ARAS): Psychometric properties of a composite measure for dissociation and absorption. Depression and Anxiety, 27(8), 775–786. doi: 10.1002/da.20656
Carlson, E. B., & Putnam, F. W. (1993). An update on the dissociative experiences scale. Dissociation, 6(1), 16-27.
Chiu, C. De, Yeh, Y. Y., Huang, Y. M., Wu, Y. C., & Chiu, Y. C. (2009). The set switching function of nonclinical dissociators under negative emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118(1), 214–222. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0014654
Comrey, A. L., & Lee, H. B. (1992). A first course in factor analysis. (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Csikszentmihalyi, M., Abuhamdeh, S., & Nakamura, J. (2014). Flow. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 227-238). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9088-8_15
Dalenberg, C. J., Brand, B. L., Gleaves, D. H., Dorahy, M. J., Loewenstein, R. J., Cardeña, E., . . . Spiegel, D. (2012). Evaluation of the evidence for the trauma and fantasy models of dissociation. Psychological Bulletin, 138(3), 550-588. DOI: 10.1037/a0027447
Dalenberg, C. J., & Paulson, K. (2009). The case for the study of “normal” dissociation processes. In P. F. Dell & J. A. O’Neil (Eds.), Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: DSM–V and beyond (pp. 145–155). Routledge.
Derogatis, L. R., & Melisaratos, N. (1983). The brief symptom inventory: an introductory report. Psychological Medicine, 13(3), 595-605.ژ https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291700048017
Engeser, S., & Rheinberg, F. (2008). Flow, performance and moderators of challenge-skill balance. Motivation and Emotion, 32(3), 158-172. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-008-9102-4
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A.-G. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149-1160. https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.41.4.1149
Ford, J. D., & Gómez, J. M. (2015). The relationship of psychological trauma and dissociative and posttraumatic stress disorders to nonsuicidal self-injury and suicidality: A review. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 16(3), 232-271. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2015.989563
Giesbrecht, T., Geraerts, E., & Merckelbach, H. (2007). Dissociation, memory commission errors, and heightened autonomic reactivity. Psychiatry Research, 150(3), 277–285. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2006.04.016
Gignac, G. E., & Szodorai, E. T. (2016). Effect size guidelines for individual differences researchers. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 74-78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.06.069
Gilbar, O., & Ben-Zur, H. (2002). Adult Israeli community norms for the brief symptom inventory (BSI). International Journal of Stress Management, 9, 1-10.ژ https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013097816238
Humpston, C. S., Walsh, E., Oakley, D. A., Mehta, M. A., Bell, V., & Deeley, Q. (2016). The relationship between different types of dissociation and psychosis-like experiences in a non-clinical sample. Consciousness and Cognition, 41, 83-92. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.02.009
Jackson, S. A., & Eklund, R. C. (2002). Assessing flow in physical activity: The flow state scale-2 and dispositional flow scale-2. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24(2), 133-150. DOI: 10.1123/JSEP.24.2.133
Jackson, S. A., & Marsh, H. W. (1996). Development and validation of a scale to measure optimal experience: The flow state scale. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 18(1), 17-35.ژ https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.18.1.17
Jennett, C., Cox, A. L., Cairns, P., Dhoparee, S., Epps, A., Tijs, T., & Walton, A. (2008). Measuring and defining the experience of immersion in games. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 66(9), 641-661. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2008.04.004
Keller, J., & Bless, H. (2008). Flow and regulatory compatibility: An experimental approach to the flow model of intrinsic motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(2), 196-209. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167207310026
Kihlstrom, J. F. (2005). Dissociative disorders. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1, 227-253.ژ https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.143925
Kraft, C. A., Lumley, M. A., D'Souza, P. J., & Dooley, J. A. (2008). Emotional approach coping and self-efficacy moderate the effects of written emotional disclosure and relaxation training for people with migraine headaches. British Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), 67-71. doi: 10.1348/135910707X251144
Levin, R., & Spei, E. (2004). Relationship of purported measures of pathological and nonpathological dissociation to self-reported psychological distress and fantasy immersion. Assessment, 11(2), 160-168. DOI: 10.1177/1073191103256377
Lindstedt, J. K., & Gray, W. D. (2015). Meta-T: TetrisⓇ as an experimental paradigm for cognitive skills research. Behavior Research Methods, 47(4), 945-965. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-014-0547-y
Marin, M. M., & Bhattacharya, J. (2013). Getting into the musical zone: trait emotional intelligence and amount of practice predict flow in pianists. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(53). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00853
Mesurado, B., Cristina Richaud, M., & José Mateo, N. (2016). Engagement, flow, self-efficacy, and Eustress of University Students: a cross-national comparison between the Philippines and Argentina. The Journal of Psychology, 150(3), 281-299.ژ DOI: 10.1080/00223980.2015.1024595
Michailidis, L., Balaguer-Ballester, E., & He, X. (2018). Flow and immersion in video games: The aftermath of a conceptual challenge. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(1682. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01682
Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). The concept of flow. In M. Csikszentmihalyi (Ed), Flow and the foundations of positive psychology (pp. 239-263). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9088-8_16
Partington, S., Partington, E., & Olivier, S. (2009). The dark side of flow: A qualitative study of dependence in big wave surfing. The Sport Psychologist, 23(2), 170-185. https://doi.org/10.1123/tsp.23.2.170
Rosenbaum, M. (1980). A schedule for assessing self-control behaviors: Preliminary findings. Behavior Therapy, 11(1), 109-121.ژ https://doi.org/10.1016/S0005-7894(80)80040-2
Sahoo, F. M. (2015). Flow experience and workplace well-being. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 41(2), 189-198.
Salanova, M., Bakker, A. B., & Llorens, S. (2006). Flow at work: Evidence for an upward spiral of personal and organizational resources. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(1), 1-22. Doi: 10.1007/s10902-005-8854-8
Schüler, J., & Nakamura, J. (2013). Does flow experience lead to risk? How and for whom. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 5(3), 311-331. https://doi.org/10.1111/aphw.12012
Soffer-Dudek, N. (2014). Dissociation and dissociative mechanisms in panic disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and depression: A review and heuristic framework. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1(3), 243-270. https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000023
Soffer-Dudek, N. (2017). Daily elevations in dissociative absorption and depersonalization in a nonclinical sample are related to daily stress and psychopathological symptoms. Psychiatry, 80(3), 265-278. DOI: 10.1080/00332747.2016.1247622
Soffer‐Dudek, N. (2019). Dissociative absorption, mind‐wandering, and attention‐deficit symptoms: Associations with obsessive‐compulsive symptoms. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(1), 51-69. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12186
Soffer-Dudek, N., Lassri, D., Soffer-Dudek, N., & Shahar, G. (2015). Dissociative absorption: An empirically unique, clinically relevant, dissociative factor. Consciousness and Cognition, 36, 338-351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2015.07.013
Soffer-Dudek, N., & Somer, E. (2023) Maladaptive daydreaming is a dissociative disorder: Supporting evidence and theory. In M. J. Dorahy, S. N. Gold, & J. A. O’Neill (Eds.), Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: Past, present, future (2nd ed.). Routledge.
Somer, E., Dolgin, M., & Saadon, M. (2001). Validation of the Hebrew version of the Dissociative Experiences Scale (H-DES) in Israel. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 2(2), 53-65. https://doi.org/10.1300/J229v02n02_05
Somer, E., Soffer-Dudek, N., Ross, C. A., & Halpern, N. (2017). Maladaptive daydreaming: Proposed diagnostic criteria and their assessment with a structured clinical doi: 10.1037/cns0000114
Tellegen, A., & Atkinson, G. (1974). Openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences ("absorption"), a trait related to hypnotic susceptibility. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83(3), 268-277. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036681
Thomson, P., & Jaque, S. V. (2012). Dancing with the muses: Dissociation and flow. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 13(4), 478-489.ژ https://doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2011.652345
Thomson, P., & Jaque, S. V. (2018). Childhood adversity and the creative experience in adult professional performing artists. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(111). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00111
Thomson, P., & Jaque, V. (2021). Multifaceted self-consciousness: Depersonalization, shame, flow, and creativity in performing artists. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 8(4), 335-345. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cns0000228
Van Der Hart, O., Nijenhuis, E., Steele, K., & Brown, D. (2004). Trauma-related dissociation: Conceptual clarity lost and found. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38(11-12), 906-914. Doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2004.01480.x
Waller, N., Putnam, F. W., & Carlson, E. B. (1996). Types of dissociation and dissociative types: A taxometric analysis of dissociative experiences. Psychological Methods, 1(3), 300-321. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.1.3.300
Wanner, B., Ladouceur, R., Auclair, A. V., & Vitaro, F. (2006). Flow and dissociation: Examination of mean levels, cross-links, and links to emotional well-being across sports and recreational and pathological gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 22(3), 289-304. Doi: 10.1007/s10899-006-9017-5Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063-1070. DOI: 10.1037//0022-35126.96.36.1993
Weibel, D., & Wissmath, B. (2011). Immersion in computer games: The role of spatial presence and flow. International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 82345. Doi: 10.1155/2011/282345
Whitson, C., & Consoli, J. (2009). Flow theory and student engagement. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives in Education, 2(1), 40-49.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Michal Zadik, Noa Bregman-Hai, Nirit Soffer-Dudek
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All articles published in JAEX are open access, freely and universally accessible online, and archived in the open journal’s Lund University website (https://journals.lub.lu.se). Articles in JAEX can be distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License CCBY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, with appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, a link to the Creative Commons license, and an indication if changes were made.