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Evaluating a Model of Flow and Clutch Optimal Psychological States in Adventure Recreation

Adventure recreation is a growing form of leisure associated with optimal psychological states reported to involve intensely pleasant emotions, optimal functioning, and a sense of achievement or fulfillment. However, much of the research on this topic has primarily focused on singular optimal state models (e.g. flow, peak experience), which have often been developed and refined in traditional sport contexts. This study investigated the potential utility of a multiple optimal state model (i.e. flow and clutch) for understanding optimal psychological states experienced across a range of adventure recreation activities (e.g. rockclimbing, snowboarding, white-water kayaking). Data were collected with 20 participants (mean age = 35.7 years, SD = 10.7) via the Scanlan Collaborative Interview Method. While flow and clutch states were reported to both involve an immersive, present moment focus, flow states were characterized by expanded attentional focus, connection to nature, effortlessness, and intuitive, pleasurable movements, whereas clutch states were characterized by a narrow focus on achieving a difficult outcome and deliberate thinking about bodily movements, followed by a sense of achievement. The findings are used to propose an expanded model of flow and clutch states that identifies the unique antecedents, characteristics, and consequences of flow and clutch optimal states in adventure recreation contexts.