Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 185–194 | Cite as

Empirical Approach to Typology of Religious Conversion

  • Peter Halama


This study attempts to derive the empirically based typology of religious conversion by means of cluster analysis. The research sample consisted of 179 participants who defined themselves as converts. The participants were administered the Religious Conversion Process Questionnaire (RCPQ), which contains 50 items reflecting dominant aspects and theories of conversion. In the first phase of analysis, hierarchical cluster analysis of items was used to identify core dimensions of the questionnaire. The items were sorted into 14 clusters (e.g., positive emotions during conversion, meaning-searching process, influence of other people, long-term and calm conversion, etc.). In the second phase, a two-step cluster analysis (hierarchical cluster analysis optimized by non-hierarchical k-means cluster analysis) was used to determine the types of religious conversion. Five types were derived, some of them clearly corresponding to the conversion types identified in previous theoretical and empirical studies (e.g., compensatory conversion).


Religious conversion Typology Cluster analysis 


  1. Asendorpf, J. B., Borkenau, P., Ostendorf, F., & van Aken, M. A. G. (2001). Carving personality description at its joints: confirmation of three replicable personality prototypes for both children and adults. European Journal of Personality, 15, 169–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Dawson, L. (1990). Self-affirmation, freedom, and rationality: theoretically elaborating “active” conversion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gooren, H. (2007). Reassessing conventional approaches to conversion: toward a new synthesis. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 46, 337–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Granqvist, P. (2003). Attachment theory and religious conversion: a review and resolution of the classic and contemporary paradigm chasm. Review of Religious Research, 45, 172–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Granqvist, P., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2004). Religious conversion and perceived childhood attachment: a meta-analysis. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 14, 223–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Halama, P., & Halamová, J. (2005). Process of religious conversion in the Catholic charismatic movement. Archive for the Psychology of Religion, 26, 69–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hood, R. W., Jr., Hill, P. C., & Spilka, B. (2009). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (4th ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  8. James, W. (1930). Druhy náboženské zkušenosti [Varieties of religious experience]. Prague: Melantrich. (orig. published in 1902).Google Scholar
  9. Kahn, P. J., & Greene, A. L. (2004). “Seeing conversion whole”: testing a model of religious conversion. Pastoral Psychology, 52, 233–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1997). A longitudinal study of changes in religious belief and behaviour as a function of individual differences in adult attachment style. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 36, 207–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1998). God as a substitute attachment figure: a longitudinal study of adult attachment style and religious change in college students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 961–973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kirkpatrick, L. A., & Shaver, P. R. (1990). Attachment theory and religion: childhood attachments, religious beliefs and conversion. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 29, 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Köse, A., & Loewenthal, K. M. (2000). Conversion motifs among British converts to Islam. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kuczkowski, S. (1998). Psychologia religii. Kraków: WAM.Google Scholar
  15. Lofland, J., & Skonovd, N. (1981). Conversion motifs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 20, 373–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Long, T. E., & Hadden, J. K. (1983). Religious conversion and the concept of socialization: integrating the brainwashing and drift models. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Meadow, M. J., & Kahoe, R. D. (1984). Psychology of religion. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  18. Paloutzian, R. F. (1981). Purpose in life and value changing following conversion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1153–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Paloutzian, R. F. (2005). Religiouos conversion and spiritual transformation? A meaning system analysis. In R. F. Paloutzian & C. L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 331–347). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  21. Rambo, L. R. (1992). The psychology of conversion. In H. N. Malony & S. Southard (Eds.), Handbook of religious conversion (pp. 159–177). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.Google Scholar
  22. Rambo, L. R. (1993). Understanding religious conversion. New Heaven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Rammstedt, B., Riemann, R., Angleitner, A., & Borkenau, P. (2004). Resilients, overcontrollers, and undercontrollers: the replicability of the three personality prototypes across informants. European Journal of Personality, 18, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Richardson, J. T. (1985). The active vs. passive convert: paradigm conflict in conversion/recruitment research. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 24, 119–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Snow, D. A., & Machalek, R. (1984). The sociology of conversion. Annual Review of Sociology, 10, 167–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Starbuck, E. D. (1901). The psychology of religion. London: Walter Scott. (orig. published in 1899.)Google Scholar
  27. Tippet, A. R. (1992). The cultural anthropology of conversion. In H. N. Malony & S. Southard (Eds.), Handbook of religious conversion (pp. 192–205). Birmingham: Religious Education Press.Google Scholar
  28. Vergote, A. (1966). Psychologie religieuse. Brussels: Charles Dessart.Google Scholar
  29. Zinnbauer, B. J., & Pargament, K. I. (1998). Spiritual Conversion: a study of religious change among college students. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 161–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Experimental PsychologySlovak Academy of SciencesBratislavaSlovakia

Personalised recommendations