"Schism in a Seminary: Ideology and Influence in Core Belief Change"

When and Where

Friday, January 20, 2023 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm
Room 459
Highland Hall
UTSC Campus


Craig Rawlings


UTSC Speaker Series: Craig Rawlings, Department of Sociology, Duke University

"Schism in a Seminary:  Ideology and Influence in Core Belief Change"

Abstract: Why do people change their core beliefs? Research suggests that belief change is driven by both endogenous reasons (i.e., ideology) as well as exogenous reasons (i.e., peer influence). Adjudicating these sources of belief change requires data with unique and rare features, without which speculation abounds. This research draws on a unique data set on beliefs and friendship ties over the first eighteen months in a seminary during a period when the seminary’s primary denominational affiliation was undergoing a formal split over gay rights. These data allow us to examine how ideology and influence combine in shaping core belief change about gay rights and biblical authority in the context of a broader schism. Findings suggest that belief change is largely driven by the friendship network forming over the period: the more central to this network the more seminarians shifted away from a literalist reading of the bible and toward a more ideologically consistent (and generally more liberal) belief system. In contrast, more peripheral or isolated individuals show little belief change and largely remain committed to a less ideologically consistent belief system centered on faith in biblical authority. Findings contribute to a growing literature on the microfoundations of polarization. 

 A light lunch will be served.

Speaker’s bio: Craig M. Rawlings is Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University where he is affiliated with the Duke Network Analysis Center. His work focuses on the connections between social structures and culture, including belief systems, knowledge, meaning-making processes, and attitude change. His publications have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Sociological Science, and Poetics. 


UTSC Sociology, Data Sciences Institute


UTSC Campus