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Flow, Altered States of Consciousness, and Human Evolution

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One important deviation from the ordinary, or 'paramount', state of consciousness is what has been called the flow experience. This transient state is characterized by focused attention on a limited stimulus field containing challenges matching or marginally higher than the person's skills, and it is sought out by people because the state is an enjoyable one that they wish to experience again and again. The experience of flow is characterized by loss of selfconsciousness, a distorted sense of time's passage, and the merging of action and awareness. Whereas other states such as drug-induced and hypnotic ones may share these features, in flow experiences -- as in ordinary waking life -- attention is absorbed in an ongoing give and take with the world, as one pursues a series of proximal goals. It is argued that flow is one of the mechanisms that made the evolution of humankind possible, because in the human brain ever higher skills needed to be cultivated to avoid the suboptimal states of anxiety and of boredom, which occur when one's skills are lower than the challenges one is confronting, or when the skills one has are much higher than the challenges faced.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Quality of Life Research Center, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA 91711, USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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