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

Осин Е. Н., Малютина А. В., Кошелева Н. В.
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 can be seen as a personality disposition that is conducive to flow experience. We present a pilot quasi-experimental study conducted in a student sample (N=84) to investigate the effect of situational meaning and self-transcendence on productivity and flow experience. Students were asked to work on a creative task (which consisted in finding solutions to a social problem) in small groups. Each group was randomly assigned with an instruction presenting the problem as happening either in a distant country (low-meaning) or home country (high-meaning). The outcome variables were measures of flow, perceived meaning, and satisfaction with time. The solutions generated by students were rated by 3 experts. The results showed that the experimental manipulation had an effect on the quality of the resulting solutions, but not on the subjective experience of participants. Self-transcendent individuals tended to experience higher flow under both conditions, however, under the high-meaning condition self-transcendence exhibited a curvilinear association with the experiential outcomes. The findings suggest that self-transcendence can be considered as a candidate trait for autotelic personality and call for more replication studies.