Interview with Prof. Csikzentmihalyi


Prof. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University and was the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago. He is noted for his research on happiness and creativity, on which he published over 120 scientific articles and book chapters. He is also well known for introducing the concept of flow in his seminal work “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience“. Csikszentmihalyi_Mihaly_WEB

What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher …  two things: the early analysis of data, when you are looking for patterns — exploring the psychological landscape, so to speak. Then the last part, when you start writing and trying to find the best way to express what you have learned.

The biggest challenge in my career so far was … to break out of the two reigning paradigms of my student’s days; the Freudian and the Skinnerian approaches.

One research project I will never forget is… perhaps the few months in 1968 when we started collecting data on the flow experience with a group of students at the college I was teaching at at the  time, Lake Forest College.

What I look for in a student who wants to work under my supervision … besides the obvious ones (academic and intellectual abilities): intrinsic motivation, a sense of humor, lack of excessive egotism.

Student research could be improved by … learning that what matters is engagement in a worth-while project.

Academically, I most admire … my friend Howard Gardner …  because …. he is an unselfish, sophisticated intellectual.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career … how to get financial support for conducting large-scale research — although I probably would have ignored the advice anyway . . .

The largest changes in psychological science in the next 10 years will be … I am not a prophet, alas, so I have no idea. I know that the best-case scenario would be for psychology to focus on human experience, and establish conceptual links with other social sciences like sociology, anthropology, history, economics, and political science . . . The worst-case scenario would be selling out to neurobiology, and becoming a sub-discipline of that field. But I have no clue as to which of these two scenarios will win out in the evolutionary process.

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas is a Senior Editor at the Journal of European Psychology Students. He is currently a PhD student in psychological methods at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For further info see

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