Get access

BECOMING BELIEVERS: STUDYING THE CONVERSION PROCESS FROM WITHIN

Authors

  • Aaron C.T. Smith,

    1. Aaron C.T. Smith is Professor and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), 239 Bourke St., Melbourne, VIC, 3000, Australia. Bob Stewart is Associate Professor in Sport Studies, and chair of the Sport Management and Policy Group, within the School of Sport and Exercise Science at Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, VIC, 3000, Australia.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Bob Stewart

    1. Aaron C.T. Smith is Professor and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT University), 239 Bourke St., Melbourne, VIC, 3000, Australia. Bob Stewart is Associate Professor in Sport Studies, and chair of the Sport Management and Policy Group, within the School of Sport and Exercise Science at Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, VIC, 3000, Australia.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Abstract Employing an extended case method ethnography (Burawoy 1998), 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 a multifaceted 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.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary