Becoming Believers: Studying the Conversion Process

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Smith, Aaron C. T and Stewart, Bob (2011) Becoming Believers: Studying the Conversion Process. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, 46 (4). pp. 806-834. ISSN 0591-2385

Abstract

Employing an extended case method ethnography, the researcher joined five new members forming a spiritualist’s group under the leadership of an experienced advocate. Over a period of eighteen months, the researcher attended all the group’s activities and events. Data were collected to reflexively interrogate the process theory of conversion proposed by Lewis Rambo (1993). The data revealed conversion to be amultifaceted and dynamic process of cognitive change, mediated by structural, and contextual forces. The results provide a reconceptualization of Rambo’s theory, presenting a theoretical expansion of the model emphasizing its mechanisms of action. The paper details the composition of the “Interaction-Commitment” mechanism, operationalized within four submechanisms emanating from Rambo’s roles, rituals, rhetoric, and relationships. This longitudinal study shows that most of the hard work toward conversion occurs before any formal interaction with a conversion advocate. Conversion operates most effectively under conditions of cognitive economy wherein the belief path follows a path of least cognitive expenditure.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/9184
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2011.01226.x
Official URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-...
Subjects Current > FOR Classification > 1604 Human Geography
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Historical > SEO Classification > 9504 Religion and Ethics
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL)
Keywords ResPubID23743, religion conversion, cognitive economy, doctrinal belief system, medium, psychology of religion, religious studies, spiritual transformation
Citations in Scopus 4 - View on Scopus
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