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Surprising Science

The Scientific Reason Flow Obliterates Time

Steven Kotler talks about the neuroscience about how flow state turns off time.

A lot has been said and written about the brain in “flow state.” It’s that experience when you’re so absorbed in something you become unaware of yourself and your mind hums along happily firing on all cylinders engrossed in the activity at hand. It could be running, it could be writing a song, it could be any act that completely absorbs you. Some see flow as the key to being more productive, and even happy.

One of the strange things about flow is that time disappears while you’re in it — minutes and even hours may pass without your even noticing. If your brain is so souped-up in flow, why would that be? Steven Kotler thinks a lot of people have flow backwards: It’s not about speeding up your brain, and it’s not about using more of your brain than usual. It’s really about slowing down the brain to the extent that parts of the prefrontal cortex are nearly shutting off, in a phenomenon called “transient hypofrontality.”

So maybe this is why creative people are so often late — time’s got so little to do with where they spend theirs.

Kotler’s discusses flow states on Big Think fairly extensively. If you’re intrigued now about how to get yourself into a flow state, check out Kotler’s video on flow-state triggers.


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