Traveling the world may well broaden your horizons, but it seems that it may also reorient your moral compass. And if your partner travels a lot, then you may not want to read the results of an experiment at Columbia University.
Titled “The dark side of going abroad,” a research paper reveals that students who traveled were much more likely to cheat when presented with a standard test than those who hadn’t packed their bags and headed off into the big wide world.
A group of 215 students were given a quiz involving anagrams and told they could win an iPad. They took one quiz one month before traveling, then another six months after they left and another six months after that.
The test had a clear fault in it that allowed the students to fill in that they had solved an anagram when they hadn’t, allowing them the chance to cheat.
Researchers found that 30% of participants cheated on the first test but 46.1% cheated on the second test and a whopping 47.7% on the third test.
This pattern was then repeated when students were asked on their return to write either about life at home or life abroad. Those who wrote about a foreign experience were more likely to cheat on a test.
The study’s authors wrote: “Past research has focused on the benefits of foreign experiences, including enhanced creativity and reduced intergroup bias. In contrast, the present work uncovers a potential downside of foreign experiences: increase immoral behavior.”
The researchers suggest that going abroad tends to create a ‘moral flexibility’ in travelers, meaning that they re-evaluate their values from home and can be partial to acting in a way they would previously have seen as immoral.
The takeaway is that people who travel may find it easier to lie to their partners, which can be a dangerous cocktail when combined with the allure of holiday or business trip romances.
On the other hand, this study could be seen as a long-winded way of saying “foreign people are bad and untrustworthy” which, given the current climate, may not be the best theory to put forth.