Flow state in self-paced and externally-paced performance contexts: an examination of the flow model

Stefan Koehn, Tony Morris, Anthony P. Watt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Kimiecik and Stein's (1992) flow model proposed that personal and situational factors affect the experience of flow. Singer (1988, 2000) argued that different mental processes underlie self-initiated and reactive performances. The first purpose of this study was to examine main and interaction effects between imagery use and confidence on flow state in different performance contexts. The second purpose was to assess main and interaction effects between flow state, imagery, and confidence on self-paced service and externally-paced groundstroke performance in tennis.

This field study used a repeated-measures design.

A pilot study was conducted to inform the set up of the two performance contexts. Flow states were assessed on two separate occasions, (a) for the service performance, and (b) for the groundstroke performance. A total of 60 junior tennis athletes completed imagery and confidence measures before the field test.

A significant interaction between imagery and confidence was found for flow state in the groundstroke but not in the service task. No significant interaction effects were found for performance outcome. Flow state significantly predicted groundstroke performance, and imagery and confidence predicted service performance.

The examination of flow in different performance contexts is challenging. Imagery and confidence are central to the experience of flow. Flow state appeared to be more important for the externally-paced than self-paced task. The relationship between flow and performance is complex, which requires the conceptual expansion of Kimiecik and Stein's (1992) flow model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-795
Number of pages9
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number6
Early online date13 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Flow
  • Confidence
  • Imagery
  • Performance
  • Interaction


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