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Article

Self-transcendence facilitates meaning-making and flow: Evidence from a pilot experimental study

Psychology in Russia: State of the Art. 2016. Vol. 9. No. 2. P. 80-96.
Osin E. N., Malyutina A. A., Kosheleva N.

Background. We review the psychological theory of flow and focus on the notion of autotelic personality, arguing that self-transcendence (understood within the existential tradition of Frankl and Längle as individual ability to establish inner relationships with values in the world) can be viewed as a personality disposition conducive to flow experience. Objective. The study aimed to investigate the effects of situational task meaning and dispositional self-transcendence on productivity and flow experience. Design. We present a pilot quasi-experimental study conducted in a student sample (N=82) Students were asked to work in small-group setting on a creative task, which consisted in finding solutions to a social problem. Each group was randomly assigned with an instruction presenting the problem as happening either in a distant country (low-meaning) or in their home country (high-meaning condition). The outcome variables were measures of flow, perceived meaning of the task, and satisfaction with time spent working. The solutions generated by students were rated by 3 experts. Results. The results showed that the experimental manipulation had a main effect on the quality of the resulting solutions, but not on the subjective experience of the participants. A number of significant interaction effects were found, indicating that the associations of self-transcendence with experiential outcomes tended to be linear under the low-meaning condition, but curvilinear under the high-meaning condition. Conclusions. The findings suggest that self-transcendence is particularly beneficial to flow in situations with unclear meaning, but very high-levels of self-transcendence may hinder flow in highly meaningful situations. Overall, the study findings suggest that self-transcendence can be considered as a disposition of autotelic personality.