This CREST report, by Professor Kim Knott and Dr Benjamin Lee, is the third in a series of synthetic research reports on ideological transmission produced by the Ideas, Beliefs And Values In Social Context programme.
This is the third and final research review in the CREST series on ideological transmission (the first was on the family, and the second on peers, education and prisons). It focuses on the process by which religious and political groups – from small cells and organisations to large movements, networks and milieus – pass on ideas, beliefs and values.
Ideological transmission is interpreted as the passing on of ideology from one person to another, or from a group to its internal and external audiences. We treat ideology as a broad concept, encompassing both political and religious ideas, and including beliefs, values, and their related practices.
Two main persuasive orientations were considered in this review: (i) external awareness-raising by groups, and (ii) their internal attempts to influence members and supporters. Three analytical concepts provided the focus: propaganda, framing and learning.
- How do ideological groups make potential supporters and other outsiders aware of their views (awareness-raising/persuasion/propaganda)?
- How is ideological material (beliefs, events, issues etc) framed by groups as they seek to raise awareness, gain recruits and energise followers?
- How do members and other supporters acquire ideological knowledge within groups (learning/indoctrination)?
These questions are interconnected by the concept of ‘persuasion’, more specifically the active attempts used by external agents to persuade individuals.
The review draws on a range of evidence from multiple disciplines and contexts. Extremist groups – violent and non-violent – provide the principal examples, including a case study on the jihadist group, al-Muhajiroun.
However, it is clear that an understanding of how such groups communicate internally and externally needs to be set in the broader context of research on why organisations in general transmit ideas, beliefs and values (e.g. for group survival, recruitment, solidarity or coercion), how they go about doing so (formally or informally, top-down or peer-to-peer), what role ideological transmission plays in their goals, and how effective it is.
These reports are products from the ‘Ideas, Beliefs And Values In Social Context’ programme, led by Professor Kim Knott at Lancaster University. The project was funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats. You can read more about the project here.
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