FUN PSYCHOLOGY

“Are we having fun yet ?” ~ Bill Griffith

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been studying human enjoyment since 1963. The question he posed himself was simple: What is fun? What makes some experiences enjoyable, and other experiences not?

When Csikszentmihalyi interviewed all kinds of people , he discovered a common thread to their stories.

“When a painter was beginning to get interesting they could not tear themselves away from it; they forgot hunger, social obligations, time, and fatigue so that they could keep moving it along. But this fascination lasted only as long as a picture remained unfinished; once it stopped changing and growing, the artist usually leaned it against a wall and turned his or her attention to the next blank canvas.”

It seemed clear that what was so enthralling about painting was not the anticipation of a beautiful picture, but the process of painting itself.

Artists are not the only ones who spend time and effort on an activity that has few rewards outside itself. In fact, everyone devotes large chunks of time doing things enjoyed for its own sake. Children spend much of their lives playing. Adults also play games like poker or chess, participate in sports, grow gardens, learn to play the guitar, read novels, go to parties, walk through woods–and do thousands of other things–for no good reason except that the activities are fun.

It can be called “flow,” because it felt their experience was most enjoyable–it was like being carried away by a current, where everything moves smoothly without effort.