The Dark Side of Being-in-Somewhere-Else

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March 26, 2017 by sercanakhanli

“On many long journeys have I gone. And waited, too, for others to return from journeys of their own. Some return; some are broken; some come back so different only their names remain.” -Yoda, Dark Rendezvous.

One of the most important parts of having new experiences is discovering new things. On the streets of different countries, you have the chance to meet people from various cultures around the globe. This kind of experience keeps the boredom away. It is known that in many countries people are encouraged to travel so they can get more new experiences. For example in South Korea, hundreds of Samsung employees are sent abroad every year “fully paid, to do nothing but travel, relax, and learn the language and soak up the culture.” As a result of foreign experience cognitive flexibility, which is “the ability of individuals to restructure knowledge in multiple different ways depending on changing situational demands” increases. Also, people are observed to be more creative and trusting. Many studies have shown that individuals who are exposed to different cultures gain features such as learning and connecting with other people. In addition to these, foreign experiences make people’s attitude towards moral principles much more flexible (Lu et al., 2017).

On the other hand, there may be a dark side of the foreign experience.

In one research, what happened before and after the cheating behavior were examined in students who were studying abroad. Two hundred and fifteen French-speaking students participated in the research, and they have had a chance to win an iPad3 in the study. Participants consisted of high school students. Also, some of these students had completed their education in 6 months (48%) or 12 months (52%) in various foreign countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, or the United States). In all phases, participants were asked to fill out the questions (e.g., pleasure with the program, pleasure with the host family), and they were provided with a chance to win an iPad3 by finishing an optional anagram task. Series of nine anagrams were introduced to solve in nine minutes (Lu et al., 2017).

Participants were told that if they solved all anagrams, their chance of winning would increase by %10, however, they had to solve all anagrams in order of commencing. Participants were asked to check an anagram as solved or unsolved to demonstrate that they had solved it. However, the fourth anagram was unsolvable. Hence, participants were cheated by claiming that they had solved more than the first three anagrams, and the reason for their cheating was to increase chances of winning an iPad. The longitudinal study consisted of three phases: Phase 1 was one month before participants left for their destination country, Phase 2 involved six months after they got in their destination country, and Phase 3 comprised twelve months after they got in their destination country. At Phase 1, 30.1% of the participants were cheated, at Phase 2, 46.1% cheated, and at Phase 3, 47.7% of the participants were cheated (Lu et al., 2017).

Another study was designed to investigate the relationship between foreign experiences and immoral behavior. In the study, whether immoral behavior might increase temporarily depending on individual’s foreign experiences (vs. nonforeign experiences) was taken into account. Participants were involved in three different conditions in which they were randomly assigned: home experience condition, foreign experience condition, and control condition.

In the foreign experience condition, participants were expected to remember and write places they had visited during a day in a foreign country. In the home experience condition, participants were expected to remember and write about a day in their hometown. Finally, in the control condition, participants were expected to remember and write about what happened when they were in the supermarket.

After the priming task was completed, participants supposed that their chances were assessed, but in reality, the aim of researchers was to measure cheating. Participants were asked to roll a die and self-report their results by themselves so that they could gain the amount of bonus payment told that they would be given (i.e., $1 for 1, $2 for 2 . . . $6 for 6). The results demonstrated that participants in the foreign experience condition showed higher mean dice-roll results than in the home experience condition and in the control condition. In other words, participants in the foreign experience condition tended to cheat.

The final study found similar results. During the first phase of this particular study, participants were asked to write their travel experiences in detail within five minutes. Two different conditions were determined, one of them was the breadth condition while the other was the depth condition. In the breadth condition (i.e., the total number of countries in which participants lived), participants had to indicate at least two countries they had been to, and they were asked some questions about what they saw, did, and thought about these foreign countries. In the depth condition (i. e., the total number of months in which participants lived), participants expressed a meaningful time they spent in one foreign country. As a manipulation check, participants were asked to indicate country numbers their travel.

After that, participants were asked to finish the measure of immoral intentions and immoral behavior. They were required to solve four anagrams: “CRKO,” “LABEVE,” “DSLIE,” and “FTOEER.” They had to solve the anagrams in two minutes, also they were given a bonus for all anagrams that they solved right. The first and third anagrams were solved quite easily (“ROCK”, “CORK”; “IDLES”, “SLIDE”), but there were no solutions for the second and fourth anagrams. Participants were observed to be cheating in the solution of the second (“LABEVE”) and fourth anagrams (“FTOEER”).

According to the results, participants in the breadth condition tended to cheat more than the participants in the depth condition. Also, 26.8% of the participants in the breadth condition indicated that they reported better than they did while solving the anagrams, while just 12.2% of the participants in the depth condition did the same (Lu et al., 2017).


Lu, G, J., Quoidbach, J., Gino, F., Chakroff, A., Maddux, W. W., & Galinsky, A. D. (2017). The dark side of going abroad: How broad foreign experiences increase immoral behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(1), 1-16.

Star wars quote. (n.d). Notable Quotes.

Author info: E. Sercan Akhanli, MA Cand., Experimental Social Psychology Program (Baskent Un., Ankara) | email: sercan_akhanli [AT] hotmail[.]com

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