PSYCHOLOGICAL DIMENSIONS OF RAPID RELIGIOUS CHANGE (CONVERSION, CULTS, EGO IDENTITY, DOGMATISM)
ROTHENBERG, DANIEL J.
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The ego identity and personality structures of individuals who have experienced rapid religious change (also referred to as "converts" or "penitents") were studied. In this context, two groups were compared: (1) individuals who experienced relatively rapid, recent and intense religious change and (2) individuals whose exposure to religion had been lifelong. Three hypotheses were investigated. The first stated that there would be no significant differences between the converts and lifelong exposure groups. The second hypothesis predicted that within all groups, including subgroups of converts, no statistically significant differences would emerge. The third specified that within the convert group no significant differences would be manifested when temporal factors related to suddenness or gradualness of religious change were studied. Personality differences between the respective subject groups were explored in terms of four (4) variables: Ego Identity Status, Dogmatism, Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Religious Orientation and Self-esteem.;In essential terms present findings support the research hypotheses. While members of the penitent group did attain significantly lower self-esteem scores, their religious ego identity scores were significantly higher; no significant differences emerged with respect to the other variables. When penitents were separated into two discrete groups no significant differences in the ego identities of converts and lifelong devotees were evidenced. While a number of differences on ego identity subscales were generated these differences were not systematic. Results regarding dogmatism and self-esteem variables were mixed: one of the convert groups did manifest elevated dogmatism scores, the other did not; one of the convert groups exhibited lowered self-esteem, the other did not. Members of all of the groups attained scores indicative of highly intrinsic religiosity, with negligible extrinsic trends evidenced. Finally, as predicted, temporal factors related to suddenness of conversion did not prove significant. While statistical differences on some ego identity subscales did emerge, no differences with respect to other personality variables were indicated. Conceptually, confirmation of these research hypotheses was seen as supporting a "subjectivist" view of rapid religious change.