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Poster C72

In the zone: Enhanced motor sequential performance in a perceptual-motor skill learning task parallels higher flow ratings

Poster Session C - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 5:00 – 7:00 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Antonio P. Santa Cruz1 (, Ziyan Y. Han1, Satoru Suzuki1, Paul J. Reber1; 1Northwestern University

Flow states are a self-reported elevated cognitive state associated with enhanced skill performance. The present study uses an implicit perceptual-motor sequence learning paradigm to determine if flow ratings relate to task performance measures. In two experiments, participants made precisely-timed motor responses to falling targets presented in a covertly-embedded repeating sequence. Task difficulty is controlled adaptively to each participant's performance level by adjusting the overall task speed. We aimed to enhance the likelihood of entering a "flow state" by setting the task speed to a relatively high accuracy rate and offering consistent sequence repetitions without any untrained target segments. In Experiment 1 (n = 27), participants completed 7 blocks of training (1 block = 420 targets) while providing ratings of their flow state and perceived difficulty after each block. Self-ratings of flow over time were correlated within each participant with accuracy and the average correlation across participants (Fisher transformed) found that these were reliably greater than zero. A similar analysis with difficulty ratings did not observe a reliable relationship. In Experiment 2 (n = 54), participants completed 4 training blocks in which untrained target segments made up 20% of each block and flow ratings were again provided after each block. Flow ratings across blocks were again found to correlate with accuracy but did not reliably correlate with difficulty ratings. We conclude that even in the first hour of practice with a novel, implicitly learned perceptual-motor sequence, participants begin to experience at least the beginning of flow states when task accuracy improves.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Skill Learning


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April 13–16  |  2024