Personality change resulting from a religious conversion experience



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Texas Tech University


Throughout time humanity has been both intrigued and frightened by the possibility of change. Nowhere has this ambivalence been more prevalent and personally relevant than in the arena of religion. From St. Paul's dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus to contemporary revival meetings and religious cults, people have sought in religion a means of effecting life-altering change.

This study was undertaken to investigate the extent of personality change subsequent to a gradual religious conversion experience. The dimensions of personality selected for study included level of state and trait anxiety, degree of intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientation, extent of self-actualization, and degree of affirmation of fundamental Catholic charismatic beliefs. These personality dimensions were evaluated via a quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test design in which a group of Catholic charismatics was assessed both prior to and following the conversion experience. Their performance was then compared with a demographically similar control group of active Catholics who had never experienced a religious conversion.

The results suggested a significant decrease in trait anxiety in conjunction with significant increases in degree of intrinsic religious orientation and affirmation of charismatic beliefs. No change was observed in degree of self-actualization, extrinsic religious orientation, or level of state anxiety. The study concludes by speculating about a possible personality profile for Catholic charismatics as well as suggesting recommendations for future research.