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MESURADO, Belén. Comparison of three explanatory theoretical models optimal experience construct or flow. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2009, vol.26, n.1, pp.121-137. ISSN 1668-7027.

The flow is described as a positive and gratifying state of consciousness. The flow is associated with the perception of high challenges in the task at hand and personal skills high enough to face those challenges. Also is described it as a situation of high concentration, involvement, enjoyment, absorption in the task, unselfconsciousness, control, and clear-cut feedback on the course of the activity. People is involved in the task for its own sake, regardless of extrinsic rewards or social approval -in other words, on the basic of intrinsic motivation. A balance of high challenge and high skill defines the conditions where optimal experience is most likely to occur, but does not necessary describe the experience of flow. "Experientially, flow is characterized not only by a balance of challenges and skill but also by deep concentration, loss of self-consciousness, and deep engagement" (Hektner, Schmidt & Csikszentmihalyi, 2007, p. 46). In this investigation three explanatory theoretical models of the optimal experience are presented. The first model intends that the optimal experience is only a factor compound for the eight characteristics that define the flow. The second model intends that the characteristics that compose the optimal experience could be summarized in two factors: the first factor would include affective experiences and cognitive experiences during realization of the activity and the second factor would be given by achievement perception and ability perception of the task. Finally, the third model exposes that, would be necessary four factors to explain the flow experience: capacity cognitive, positive affective experience, ability perception and achievement perception, during the realization of the activity. The objective of this work is to investigate which of the three theoretical models has a better adaptation to the empiric data. The sample was composed by 1585 children and adolescents, between 9 and 15 years, students of public and private schools. For the analysis of the data it was used the methods of structural equations. The evaluation of the resulting indexes of the application of the structural models, suggests that the pattern of four factors provides a better adjustment to the data. Subse-quently was put on approval a new model that postulates that the optimal experience is a latent variable that can be explained by means of the existence of two underlying factors of second order: affect positive and activation cognitive, on one hand, and achievement perception and ability perception for the other one. The flow experience can be explained by a process that begins with the perception of an activity that is defiant and the person perceives that he/she has the enough capacities to reach with success the proposed end. The following stage would be given by the activation of the person's cognitive capacities to concentrate its attention in the realization of the task and then to be able to maintain it centered in the activity. The positive affection would arise when concluding the activity like a consequence of the same one. When a person is in flow state he/she feels the challenge of carrying out the activity the best thing possible and this takes it to constantly improve her abilities.

Keywords : Optimal experience; Flow; Evaluation; Theoretical models.

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