Helen Hooper

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology & Public Health Education


The affective and experiential components of the flow state, as outlined by Csikszentmihalyi (1975), have served as a basis for research into optimal experience over the past twenty years, and although adjustments have been made by various researchers, the description of the characteristics remain essentially the same. This study used qualitative methods to further explore this area . With the initial aim of enhancing our understanding of the optimal experiences of rock climbing participants, the present study purposefully sampled fifteen informants representative of the range of characteristics found in the setting. Questioning techniques and analysis methods used in this study sought to retain the individual meaning perspectives of informants and to address concerns with the decontextualization of data apparent in much of the previous research. In-depth interviews focused on characteristics of optimal experiences and emotional performance concomitants. Initially data were analyzed deductively using the characteristics of flow documented by Jackson (1996). Dimensions of flow which were associated with a total immersion in the activity of rock climbing were recognized by all informants, regardless of ability level or experiential background. Additionally, climbing was enjoyable for all informants, yet different opinions existed as to what constituted an enjoyable experience. Enjoyment often appeared unrelated to the fear, pain and strenuous muscular effort involved in the facilitation of the necessary focal intensity and was reported by all informants as a post hoc evaluation of a positive experience or outcome. Flow received endorsement as a motivational variable, yet was not necessarily equated with true intrinsic motivation. Particularly among sport climbers, both introjected and identified regulation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; 1991) were reported as concomitant with flow. Methodological and conceptual concerns are discussed in relation to reflections on techniques used and results obtained in this qualitative study.

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