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Google Doodle celebrates Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s 89th birthday today, paying tribute to the Hungarian-American psychologist known for his pioneering work in the scientific exploration of happiness and creativity. 

Csíkszentmihályi is renowned for coining the term “flow,” which refers to the mental state of being completely immersed in an activity. It is associated with optimal performance and well-being marked by focus, enjoyment, and fulfilment.

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Early life

Born on this day in 1934 in Italy (then part of Imperial Italy), Csíkszentmihályi’s early life was marked by financial struggles due to World War II. He had to leave school to support his family, and the profound suffering he witnessed during the war fuelled his determination to understand the science of happiness. His quest led him through art, philosophy, and religion until he stumbled upon a lecture by Carl Jung. Jung discussed post-war traumatized psyches of Europeans  and how their mental states caused them to project the UFO sightings into the sky.

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Education

At the age of 22, he moved to the United States to study psychology at the University of Chicago. His fascination with the concept grew during his graduate studies, as he observed painters so engrossed in their work that they lost track of time, neglecting basic survival needs for food, water and sleep. Several artists described this experience using the metaphor of a water current, giving rise to the term “flow state.” 

In 1965, he earned a PhD in Positive Developmental Psychology. In 1990, Csíkszentmihályi published the book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,’ which has been translated into over 20 languages. 

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Csíkszentmihályi became a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, where he founded and co-directed the Quality of Life Research Center. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences was honoured with various prestigious awards such as the Clifton Strengths Prize and the Széchenyi Prize.

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Updated: 29 Sep 2023, 09:15 AM IST

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