A team of scholars has published an interesting new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology regarding the impact that foreign experiences have on our behavior (Jackson Lu, Jordi Quoidbach, Francesca Gino, Alek Chakroff, William Maddux, and Adam Galinksy). They built upon prior research that has demonstrated that foreign experiences bring certain important benefits to individuals. Specifically, prior work has shown that foreign experiences foster cognitive flexibility and enhance creativity. They also reduce intergroup bias.
This new study shows that foreign experiences have negative impacts as well. These scholars conducted eight studies using multiple research methodologies. They found that foreign experiences enhance moral flexibility. By that, they mean that foreign experiences increased moral relativism, and thereby enhanced immoral behavior on the part of individuals. The findings held true even for people of different ages and cultures. The study certainly does not mean that we should limit our international educational, travel, and work experiences. However, it does sound a note of caution about the effects these experiences have on us. The benefits can be substantial, but some important risks do arise.