The Flow Engine Framework: A Cognitive Model of Optimal Human Experience


  • Milija Šimleša
  • Jérôme Guegan
  • Edouard Blanchard
  • Franck Tarpin-Bernard
  • Stéphanie Buisine


Flow is a well-known concept in the fields of positive and applied psychology. Examination of a large body of flow literature suggests there is a need for a conceptual model rooted in a cognitive approach to explain how this psychological phenomenon works. In this paper, we propose the Flow Engine Framework, a theoretical model explaining dynamic interactions between rearranged flow components and fundamental cognitive processes. Using an IPO framework (Inputs – Processes – Outputs) including a feedback process, we organize flow characteristics into three logically related categories: inputs (requirements for flow), mediating and moderating cognitive processes (attentional and motivational mechanisms) and outputs (subjective and objective outcomes), describing the process of the flow. Comparing flow with an engine, inputs are depicted as flow-fuel, core processes cylinder strokes and outputs as power created to provide motion.