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Network Hubs and Opportunity for Complex Thinking Among Young British Muslims


  • Note: Raw data used in this study are available from the author and from the University of Cambridge.

  • Acknowledgments: This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) under a doctoral fellowship and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust (CCT). The author is grateful to Sara Savage and José Liht who provided the demographic data and integrative complexity scores reported in this research and who commented on this article. The author also thanks James W. Jones for reviewing multiple versions of this article, Carissa Sharpe and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback, and Fraser Watts for his support as Director of the Psychology and Religion Research Group.

Correspondence should be addressed to Ryan J. Williams, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, West Road, Cambridge CB39BS, United Kingdom. E-mail:


This study examines whether individuals in a network esteem peers who think in integratively complex ways about religious issues in the context of a small-group educational course comprised of young British Muslims. Integrative complexity (IC) measures the degree to which an individual's information processing is characterized by (a) rigid, black-and-white thinking or (b) ability to recognize the validity of, and integrate, multiple perspectives. A novel measurement procedure was developed for this research called the Social Field Generator. Results from seven groups (n = 55) showed that (a) participants with levels of IC were described by their peers with more positive sentiment than their low-IC counterparts; (b) the higher the IC scores of participants, the closer peers felt toward them; and (c) the highest IC individuals were consistently selected as sources of advice, whereas the lowest IC individuals were not viewed as sources of advice. This research shows that within an educational environment aimed at promoting complex thinking, group processes and grassroots religious leadership can encourage higher levels of IC as a group norm.