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Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust

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Five studies examined the effect of breadth and depth of foreign experiences on generalized trust. Study 1 found that the breadth (number of countries traveled) but not the depth (amount of time spent traveling) of foreign travel experiences predicted trust behavior in a decision-making game. Studies 2 and 3 established a causal effect on generalized trust by experimentally manipulating a focus on the breadth versus depth of foreign experiences. Study 4 used a longitudinal design to establish that broad foreign travel experiences increased generalized trust. Study 5 explored the underlying processes and found that a focus on the differences rather than the similarities among the countries visited was critical in producing greater generalized trust. Across five studies, using various methods (correlational, lab experiment, and longitudinal), samples (United States and Chinese) and operationaliza- tions (trust game and generalized trust scale), we found a robust relationship between the breadth of foreign travel experiences and generalized trust.
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DOI: 10.1177/1948550613514456
2014 5: 517 originally published online 5 December 2013Social Psychological and Personality Science
Jiyin Cao, Adam D. Galinsky and William W. Maddux
Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth of Foreign Experiences Increases Generalized Trust
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Article
Does Travel Broaden the Mind? Breadth
of Foreign Experiences Increases
Generalized Trust
Jiyin Cao
1
, Adam D. Galinsky
3
, and William W. Maddux
2
Abstract
Five studies examined the effect of breadth and depth of foreign experiences on generalized trust. Study 1 found that the breadth
(number of countries traveled) but not the depth (amount of time spent traveling) of foreign travel experiences predicted trust
behavior in a decision-making game. Studies 2 and 3 established a causal effect on generalized trust by experimentally manipulating
a focus on the breadth versus depth of foreign experiences. Study 4 used a longitudinal design to establish that broad foreign travel
experiences increased generalized trust. Study 5 explored the underlying processes and found that a focus on the differences
rather than the similarities among the countries visited was critical in producing greater generalized trust. Across five studies,
using various methods (correlational, lab experiment, and longitudinal), samples (United States and Chinese) and operationaliza-
tions (trust game and generalized trust scale), we found a robust relationship between the breadth of foreign travel experiences
and generalized trust.
Keywords
culture, multicultural experiences, trust, intergroup relations, depth, breadth
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and
many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad,
wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be
acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s
lifetime.
Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
Mark Twain’s autobiographical account of his travels through
Europe stands as a powerful testament to the importance of for-
eign travel experiences and how they can change our views of
the world. In particular, Twain proposed that certain types of
foreign travel may be beneficial because contact with a wide
range of different people can lead to a more charitable view
of people in general. In other words, foreign travel increases
a sense of trust that not only extends to the groups one encoun-
ters abroad but also can generalize to humanity as a whole.
Generalized trust is the belief in the benevolence of human
nature (Yamagishi & Yamagishi, 1994). This type of trust is a
key element of successful societies: It is an effective indicator
of social capital (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 1993) and is posi-
tively associated with economic growth (Knack & Keefer,
1997) and civic engagement (Uslaner & Brown, 2005). It is
especially critical in an increasingly globalized economy,
where interactions with unfamiliar others are inevitable and
often require a certain basic level of trust in others to function
effectively. However, given that trust involves making oneself
vulnerable to another (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer,
1998) as well as the fact that out-group members, foreigners,
or strangers are typically viewed more suspiciously than
in-group members (Tajfel, 1981; Tajfel & Turner, 1986; Yuki,
Maddux, Brewer, & Takemura, 2005), generalized trust is
likely to be especially difficult to establish in foreign or
unfamiliar environments. For this reason, it is important to
empirically explore Twain’s provocative hypothesis that
foreign experiences will increase generalized trust.
Research on the effect of intergroup contact on generalized
trust is both sparse and contradictory. Some of this work has
shown that intergroup contact can increase trust but only for the
specific group involved in the interaction. For example, Catho-
lics and Protestants in Northern Ireland trusted each other more
after having interactions with each other (Paolini, Hewstone, &
Cairns, 2007; Tam, Hewstone, Kenworthy, & Cairns, 2009),
but such trust often does not generalize toward other groups.
Similarly, taking the perspective of African Americans pro-
duces more positive attitudes toward African Americans but
does not produce more positive attitudes toward other
1
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
2
INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France
3
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jiyin Cao, Northwestern University, 2001 Sheridan, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Email: jiyin-cao@kellogg.northwestern.edu
Social Psychological and
Personality Science
2014, Vol. 5(5) 517-525
ªThe Author(s) 2013
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DOI: 10.1177/1948550613514456
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disadvantaged groups (e.g., women, gays; Vescio, Sechrist, &
Paolucci, 2003). Although depth of intergroup contact (i.e.,
interracial roommates, friends, mixed schools) has been pro-
posed to be helpful in producing a generalization effect, mixed
results have emerged thus far across different studies (Gaither
& Sommers, 2013; Levin, van Laar, & Sidanius, 2003; Van
Laar, Levin, Sinclair, & Sidanius, 2005). Thus, it remains
unclear what the exact circumstances are for intergroup contact
to facilitate generalized trust.
Breadth Versus Depth of Foreign Experiences
Consistent with Mark Twain’s assertion, we propose that for-
eign travel experiences may serve as one way to facilitate an
increase in generalized trust. However, given the difficulty for
intergroup contact to increase a generalized sense of trust, we
suggest that it is important to differentiate between two distinct
aspects of foreign experiences: the depth of experience (i.e., the
length of time one spends abroad) and the breadth of experi-
ence (i.e., the number of countries one has visited). While depth
has been shown to be associated with adapting to a local culture
and subsequent enhanced creativity (Maddux & Galinsky,
2009), breadth captures the diversity of foreign experiences,
an aspect of multicultural experiences that has received very
little empirical attention thus far.
We propose that spending time in a foreign environment
may be a critical experience that increases generalized trust,
but especially when those foreign experiences involve broad
experiences that afford the opportunity to engage with a variety
of foreign individuals rather than individuals from just one spe-
cific group (i.e., deep experiences). Indeed, one possible reason
for the inability of some intergroup contact experiences to
increase a sense of generalized trust may be that most studies
involved exposure to only one type of out-group. However,
experiences that allow for contact with many different cultural
or ethnic groups may increase the likelihood that one’s impres-
sions derived from interactions with these different groups will
be generalized and applied to other groups and people. These
opportunities for contact with diverse groups are likely to occur
during broad foreign experiences that take place across several
countries. Deeper foreign experiences, on the other hand, such
as extended time in a single country, may be less likely to lead
to the diversity of exposure that is necessary to produce a
generalized effect.
We propose that the breadth of foreign experiences may be
particularly important for facilitating generalized trust because
breadth provides the variety and diversity of experiences that
are necessary to produce generalizations and learning. Indeed,
Kelley’s classic analysis of variance attribution theory (Kelley,
1967) highlights the necessity of variance as being a critical
factor when forming a generalized attribution of a target. For
example, repeated information from dissimilar sources has
been shown to be more valuable than information from similar
sources in forming impressions (Himmelfarb, 1972). Evidence
from the intergroup contact literature also supports the impor-
tance of breadth of experiences in leading to generalizability.
For example, neighborhood ethnical diversity is associated
with lower bias toward a number of different out-groups
(Schmid, Hewstone, & Al Ramiah, 2013). Similarly, a diverse
set of intergroup contact experiences (e.g., race, religion,
nationality, culture, social class), rather than deep intergroup
contact with just one category, predicts more favorable inter-
group attitudes in general (Pettigrew, 1997). Further support
for our hypotheses comes from studies showing that general-
ized trust is higher in social contexts that have greater social
mobility (Macy & Sato, 2002; Yamagishi & Yamagishi,
1994), which provide more opportunities to interact with a
diverse set of unfamiliar individuals compared to lower mobi-
lity contexts, where people mostly interact with known others.
Overall, then, we predicted that broad rather than deep experi-
ences within foreign environments would be more likely to
produce generalized trust.
Overview
We conducted five studies to test the prediction that the breadth
more than the depth of foreign experiences will increase gener-
alized trust. In Study 1, we tested whether the breadth (i.e., the
number of foreign countries one has traveled to) more than the
depth (i.e. the length of time one has traveled abroad) of foreign
experiences predicts behavior in the trust game (Berg, Dic-
khaut, & Mccabe, 1995). In Study 2 and Study 3, we estab-
lished a causal relationship by directly manipulating a focus
on broad or deep foreign experiences prior to a trust game
(Study 2) and the generalized trust scale (Study 3; Yamagishi
& Yamagishi, 1994). Study 4 used a longitudinal design and
the generalized trust scale to assess people’s generalized trust
before (Time 1) and after (Time 2) traveling abroad; this design
allowed us to capture whether the number of countries partici-
pants traveled to during their trip predicted increases in gener-
alized trust from Time 1 to Time 2. In Study 5, we directly
tested our hypothesis that a diversity of experiences is critical
by manipulating a difference or similarity focus to explore
whether a difference focus increased generalized trust.
Study 1
Correlational Evidence
Study 1 explored the relationship between the breadth of for-
eign travel experiences and generalized trust. We predicted that
the breadth more than depth would predict behavior in the trust
game (Berg et al., 1995), even after controlling for demo-
graphic and personality factors.
Method
Participants and Procedure
A total of 237 undergraduates (142 women) played the trust
game in the laboratory (Berg et al., 1995) and then filled out
a subsequent survey assessing foreign experiences and person-
ality and demographic variables.
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Foreign Travel Experiences
Participants reported the breadth (the number of countries they
had traveled to; M¼4.05, standard deviation [SD]¼3.15) and
the depth (the length of time they had traveled abroad; M¼
10.53 weeks, SD ¼15.28) of their foreign travel experiences
across their entire lifetime.
1
Control Variables
We controlled for the Big Five personality traits (e.g., Costa &
McCrae, 1985), most of which have been shown to be related to
trust (e.g., trust is positively related to extroversion and agree-
ableness and negatively related to neuroticism, Evans &
Revelle, 2008). The five traits included (1) extroversion, (2)
agreeableness, (3) neuroticism, (4) conscientiousness, and (5)
openness to experience. We also controlled for gender, age, and
ethnicity (Caucasians or not).
Trust Game
The trust game was developed as an overt, behavioral measure
of trust (Berg et al., 1995). One person plays the role of a ‘‘sen-
der,’’ whereas the other person plays the role of a ‘‘receiver.’
The sender decides how much of a US$10 endowment to send
to the receiver and is told that this sent amount will triple in
value for the receiver. The receiver then decides how much
of this tripled amount he or she will return to the sender. The
logic behind this game is that the initial amount of money sent
by the sender is an indicator of trust toward the receiver
because any money sent places the sender at risk of not receiv-
ing it back, rendering the sender vulnerable to the receiver’s
subsequent decision (Rousseau et al., 1998). Thus, the amount
of money sent is a proxy for the amount of trust the sender has
in the receiver.
Participants were told that they were going to play this game
with another participant in the lab and that they would be ran-
domly assigned to the role of the sender or the receiver. In actu-
ality, all participants were assigned to the role of the sender.
Given that players’ identities were anonymous, the amount of
money they sent to the receiver (a presumed stranger) provides
a measure of their generalized trust (Holm & Danielson, 2005;
Lount & Pettit, 2012).
Results
The correlations between all the variables are presented in
Table 1. A regression model that included only the breadth and
the depth of foreign travel experiences revealed that breadth
predicted the amount of money sent in the trust game, B¼
.17, standard error (SE)¼.08, b¼.16, p¼.03, but the effect
of depth was not significant, B¼.00, SE ¼.00, b¼.10, p¼
.20 (see Model 1, Table 2). This effect of breadth held even
when controlling for demographic and personality variables,
B¼.16, SE ¼.08, b¼.16, p¼.04; whereas the effect of depth
was still not significant, B¼.00, SE ¼.00, b¼.08, p¼.31
(see Model 2, Table 2). We also explored the interaction effect
by adding the interaction term of breadth and depth and it was
not significant, p¼.80.
We conducted several additional robustness checks. First, to
test for the effect of outliers, we identified outliers using stu-
dentized deleted residual greater than 3; no outliers were iden-
tified. We also used Cook’s Distance as the outlier criterion,
with the critical value at 0.01688 (4/N). Nine outliers were
identified, but importantly, breadth still predicted the amount
of money sent in the trust game after excluding these outliers,
B¼.18, SE ¼.08, b¼.16, p¼.03. Second, we log trans-
formed the breadth and depth data to reduce skewness (adding
1 before the transformation to eliminate 0 values). The effect of
breadth still held, B¼2.54, SE ¼1.28, b¼.23, p¼.048.
Third, we explored whether there was a nonlinear relationship
between breadth and money sent; the quadratic term was not
significant, p¼.57, suggesting that a linear effect is a better
representation for the relationship between breadth and the
amount of money sent in the trust game.
Study 2
Experimental Evidence
Study 2 aimed to establish a causal relationship between the
breadth of foreign travel experiences and generalized trust.
We had participants recall either a broad or a deep foreign
experience and examined the effect of this experimental
manipulation on decisions in the trust game.
Method
Participants
A total of 51 undergraduates (32 women) were randomly
assigned to one of two experimental conditions: broad travel
versus deep travel. Because research has found that temporarily
activating a psychological construct typically requires partici-
pants to initially have that experience accessible in memory
(e.g., Maddux, Adam, & Galinsky, 2010), we only sampled stu-
dents who had spent a significant amount of time in one coun-
try and had been on a trip involving more than two countries to
ensure that both experiences could be made mentally
accessible.
Experimental Condition
In the breadth condition, participants recalled a trip that
involved more than two countries and described the experience
in detail. For example, they described what happened, how they
felt, what they saw, did, and thought. In the depth condition,
participants recalled a trip where they had spent a significant
amount of time in one country.
Generalized Trust Measure
After the recall task, participants played the same trust game as
in Study 1.
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Results
Participants who recalled a broad foreign travel experience
(M¼6.21, SD ¼3.43) sent significantly more money
in the trust game than those who recalled a deep travel expe-
rience (M¼4.33, SD ¼2.82), t(49) ¼2.08, p¼.04,
d¼.60, providing causal evidence for the role of breadth
of foreign experiences in the development of greater gener-
alized trust.
Study 3
Experimental Evidence
Study 3 aimed to conceptually replicate the causal relationship
with a different measurement for generalized trust. We also
tested whether the country-level trust scores of visited coun-
tries moderated the effects.
Method
Participants
A total of 117 undergraduates (78 women, M
age
¼20.74, SD ¼
1.73) were randomly assigned to one of the two experimental
conditions: broad travel versus deep travel. Similar to Study
2, we only recruited participants who had those travel experi-
ences before.
Experimental Condition
In the breadth condition, participants recalled and wrote an
essay on travel experiences in three different countries. In con-
trast to Study 2, where participants did not identify their desti-
nations, the current manipulation allowed us to identify the
exact countries visited. The depth condition was the same as
in Study 2.
Generalized Trust Measure
After the recall task, participants answered the 6-item general-
ized trust scale (Yamagishi & Yamagishi, 1994). An example
item included ‘‘Most people are trustworthy’’ (a¼.84).
Results
Participants who recalled broad foreign travel experiences
(M¼5.01, SD ¼.83) had significantly higher scores in the
generalized trust survey than those who recalled a deep foreign
travel experience (M¼4.68, SD ¼.87), t(115) ¼2.10, p¼.04,
d¼.39. Thus, Study 3 showed the robustness of the relation-
ship by using a different manipulation and generalized trust
measure.
We obtained the country-level trust scores from the World
Values Survey (WVS)2 for the countries participants listed.
Two participants were dropped off for this analysis because
trust scores for the countries they listed (e.g. Bahamas, Nicar-
agua)weremissingintheWVS.Wetestedwhetherthe
country-level trust scores moderated the effect of condition
Table 1. Correlation Table for All Variables, Study 1.
Mean SD 1 234 567891011
1. Money sent in trust game 4.23 3.33
2. Breadth 4.05 3.15 .11
y
3. Depth 10.53 15.28 .02 .48** —
4. Gender (0 ¼male,1¼female)1.60.50.14* .02 .12 —
5. Age 19.59 1.30 .10 .12 .04 .15** —
6. Ethnicity group (0 ¼non-White, 1 ¼White) .48 .50 .07 .01 .05 .11
y
.15* —
7. Extroversion 4.74 1.35 .07 .07 .03 .04 .06 .07 —
8. Conscientiousness 5.31 1.16 .13
y
.07 .03 .08 .13 .02 .10 —
9. Agreeableness 4.72 .99 .06 .01 .00 .00 .04 .02 .20** .07 —
10. Neuroticism 3.16 1.30 .07 .08 .07 .16* .11
y
.01 .90 .10 .07 —
11. Openness 5.35 1.08 .01 .14* .05 .00 .01 .04 .38** .04 .14* .09 —
Note.SD ¼standard deviation. N¼237.
y
p< .10. ** p< .01. * p< .05.
Table 2. Personality/Demographic and Foreign Travel Experiences
Predictors of Money Sent in a Trust Game (N¼237), Study 1.
Independent Variables Model 1 Model 2
Breadth .17* (.08) .16* (.08)
Depth .003 (.03) .00 (.00)
Gender (0 ¼male,1¼female).83
y
(.45)
Age .35* (.17)
Ethnicity group
(0 ¼non-White,1¼white)
.83 (.45)
Extroversion .05 (.09)
Conscientiousness .14 (.10)
Agreeableness .12 (.11)
Neuroticism .08 (.09)
Openness .06 (.11)
Constant 3.77** (.35) 12.64** (3.83)
Note. The table represents unstandardized regression coefficients, with stan-
dard errors in parentheses.
y
p< .10. ** p< .01. * p< .05.
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(breadth vs. depth) on generalized trust. We averaged the
country-level trust ratings of the three countries in the breadth
condition. We entered condition and country-level trust on the
first step and added in their interaction on the second step to
predict generalized trust. Breadth still predicted generalized
trust, B¼.32, SE ¼.15, b¼.19, p¼.04. Importantly, the
interaction was not significant, B¼.01, SE ¼.01, b¼.32,
p¼.33.
We also tested whether participants recalled countries with
different country-level trust depending on condition. The coun-
tries that participants recalled in the breadth and the depth con-
ditions did not differ in country-level trust, t(113) ¼.86, p¼.39.
Thus, the result suggested that the effect is independent of
country-level trust scores.
Study 4
Longitudinal Evidence
Study 4 used a longitudinal design to test whether broad foreign
travel experiences lead to increases in generalized trust over
time.
Method
Participants and Procedure
A total of 391 participants (264 women; age: M¼28.61, SD ¼
5.74) were recruited from an online research platform in China.
Participants were people who planned to travel abroad in the
near future. Participants were told that the study was composed
of two phases of online surveys and that they would be paid
with a gift equal to US$10 for taking part in the study. A total
of 245 participants (167 women; age: M¼28.37, SD ¼5.79)
finished both the Time 1 and the Time 2 measures. Of these
participants, 197 traveled abroad during this period. We
included all participants who completed both time periods in
the analyses.
Time 1
We measured generalized trust using the generalized trust scale
(a¼.84; M¼5.38, SD ¼.80). We collected Big Five person-
ality traits and demographic information. We also controlled
for socioeconomic status (SES) by asking participants to mark
their perceived position in the society (Adler, Epel, Castel-
lazzo, & Ickovics, 2000), because previous work has shown
SES predicts generalized trust (Delhey & Newton, 2003; Lount
& Pettit, 2012).
Time 2
Two months after Time 1, participants received another survey
link via e-mail. The survey contained the same generalized
trust scale taken at Time 1 (Time 2: a¼.92; M¼5.60, SD
¼.81), in addition to new questions assessing the breadth
(i.e., the number of countries that they had traveled to) and the
depth (i.e., the length of time that they had spent traveling
abroad) of their foreign travel experiences over the previous
2 months.
Results
The correlations of all the variables are presented in Table 3.
We first ran a regression model including only the breadth and
the depth of foreign travel experiences as predictors of
increases in generalized trust from Time 1 to Time 2 (Time 1
generalized trust subtracted from Time 2 generalized trust).
Breadth predicted increases in generalized trust, B¼.14, SE
¼.06, b¼.18, p¼.02, but the effect of depth was not signif-
icant, B¼.005, SE ¼.005, b¼.088, p¼.27 (see Model 1,
Table 4). Next, we conducted a second regression model con-
trolling for demographic and personality variables. Again,
breadth predicted increases in generalized trust, B¼.14, SE
¼.06, b¼.18, p¼.02, whereas depth did not, B¼.006,
SE ¼.005, b¼.10, p¼.19 (see Model 2, Table 4). We also
examined our predictions by using generalized trust at Time 2
as the dependent variable and generalized trust at Time 1 as a
control variable. Again, breadth predicted generalized trust at
Time 2 after controlling for generalized trust at Time 1, person-
ality, and demographic variables, B¼.12, SE ¼.06, b¼.14,
p¼.04, but depth did not, p¼.25. We also explored the inter-
action effect by adding the interaction term of breadth and
depth and it was not significant, p¼.76.
We conducted several robustness checks. First, we tested
whether there were outliers driving the result. We used studen-
tized deleted residual greater than 3, which identified three out-
liers, and Cook’s Distance greater than the critical value at
0.0163 (4/N), which identified 17 outliers. Breadth still
predicted increases in generalized trust after eliminating the
studentized deleted residual outliers, B¼.18, SE ¼.06,
b¼.26, p< .01, and the Cook’s Distance outliers, B¼.19,
SE ¼.06, b¼.30, p< .01. Second, we log transformed the
breadth and depth data to reduce skewness (adding 1 before the
transformation to eliminate 0 values); breadth still marginally
predicted increases in generalized trust, B¼.84, SE ¼.52,
b¼.20, p¼.10, and the effect became significant if we elim-
inated the outliers in the analysis, B¼1.17, SE ¼.47, b¼.31,
p¼.01, for outliers identified by studentized deleted residual;
B¼.98, SE ¼.45, b¼.29, p¼.03 for outliers identified by
Cook’s Distance. Third, we explored whether there was a non-
linear relationship between breadth and increases in general-
ized trust. The quadratic term for breadth was not significant,
p¼.12, suggesting that a linear effect is a better representation
for the relationship between breadth and increases in general-
ized trust.
We also explored whether the means of the country-level
trust scores moderated the relationship between breadth and
increases in generalized trust. Given that the data of many
visited countries was missing in the WVS, we had 209 data
points available in this analysis. The interaction term was not
significant, B¼.001, SE ¼.003, b¼.07, p¼.77, demonstrat-
ing that the country-level trust scores did not influence the
effects.
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Table 3. Correlation Table for All Variables, Study 4.
Mean SD 1 2345678910111213
Generalized trust change .22 .79
Breadth 1.24 1.01 .13*
Depth (Days) 10.82 12.77 .02 .60**
Generalized trust (T1) 5.38 .80 .48** .05 .02 —
Generalized trust (T2) 5.60 .81 .50** .07 .00 .52**
Gender (0 ¼male,1¼female)1.68.47.08 .10 .01 .05 .03 —
Age 28.37 5.79 .08 .10 .09 .13* .05 .03
SES 5.30 1.32 .17** .04 .02 .21** .04 .00 .02
Extroversion 4.20 1.24 .00 .00 .09 .12
y
.12
y
.12
y
.08 .09 —
Conscientious 5.15 1.05 .09 .05 .04 .16* .07 .09 .24** .03 .04
Agreeableness 5.32 .96 .19** .09 .08 .28** .09 .07 .11
y
.06 .02 .02
Neuroticism 3.26 1.08 .18** .01 .11
y
.22** .05 .14* .21** .16* .29** .38** .39** —
Openness 5.01 1.10 .09 .05 .06 .14* .04 .10 .06 .07 .48** .13* .08 .37** —
Note. SES ¼socioeconomic status; SD ¼standard deviation. N¼245.
** p< .01. * p< .05.
y
p< .10.
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Study 5
The Importance of a Focus on Diversity
Study 5 tested one possible underlying process for the relation-
ship between the breadth of foreign experiences and the gener-
alized trust. Because we propose that breadth increases
generalized trust by providing a diverse set of experiences that
is critical for the generalization process, we manipulated a
focus on differences versus similarities among the visited coun-
tries. Previous research has demonstrated that listing the differ-
ences or similarities between two targets can successfully
activate a difference or similarity mind-set (e.g. Mussweiler,
2001). We predicted that a difference focus would lead to
higher generalized trust than a similarity focus.
Method
Participants
A total of 63 undergraduates (43 women, M
age
¼20.41, SD ¼
1.68) were randomly assigned to one of the two experimental
conditions: a difference focus versus a similarity focus.
Because participants were asked to first recall and write an
essay on broad travel experiences, only participants who had
traveled to three or more countries were eligible to participate
in the study.
Experimental Condition
Participants first recalled travel experiences in three different
countries, as in Study 3. Next, participants were asked to list
either the similarities or the differences among the three coun-
tries that they just wrote an essay on. Thus, by holding breadth
constant and manipulating the salience of differences versus
similarities, we sought to directly test our contention that it is
the variance/diversity of foreign experiences that facilitates the
trust generalization process.
Generalized Trust Measure
Next, participants completed the generalized trust scale used in
the previous studies (a¼.83).
Results
Participants who focused on the differences among broad for-
eign travel experiences (M¼5.23, SD ¼.75) had significantly
higher generalized trust than those who focused on the simila-
rities (M¼4.75, SD ¼.95), t(61) ¼2.21, p¼.03, d¼.56.
Having participants focus on the diversity of their foreign
experiences increased their generalized trust. The experiment
provides supports for our proposed mechanism—the diversity
of experiences provided by broad foreign experiences plays a
key role in increasing generalized trust because diversity is
essential for the generalization process.
Discussion
Across five studies, regardless of the types of research method,
the cultural samples and operationalizations of generalized
trust, we consistently found a robust relationship between the
breadth of foreign travel experiences and increases in general-
ized trust. Our longitudinal study and experiments provide cau-
sal evidence that broad foreign experiences led to greater
generalized trust. Our final experiment offered direct evidence
for the idea that focusing on the diversity of one’s foreign
experiences increases generalized trust.
Despite the importance of generalized trust in interpersonal
interactions, most research on generalized trust comes from
economics, sociology, and political science, which focus on
macro-environmental factors, such as income inequality
(Neville, 2012), wealth (Delhey & Newton, 2005), and corrup-
tion (Rothstein & Uslaner, 2005). Our research offers an
individual and developmental perspective by showing the
impact of foreign experiences on generalized trust.
A critical contribution of the current article is that it makes a
novel distinction between the breadth and depth of foreign
experiences. Globalization has given birth to a host of research
on the psychological effects of foreign experiences, most of
which has only investigated the effect of deep foreign experi-
ences (e.g., Maddux & Galinsky, 2009). Less research has
addressed the distinctive role of breadth of foreign experiences,
either within the multicultural experiences literature or within
the intergroup contact literature, and the differential psycholo-
gical benefits provided by broader versus deeper experiences.
The distinction between breadth and depth is critical in
practice, because the previous focus on the depth of intergroup
contact (i.e., repeated interactions with the same individuals or
across many individuals but from the same group) has led to
policy prescriptions that often emphasize the depth of interac-
tions, such as intergroup roommates and friendships (Pettigrew
& Tropp, 2006). However, these deeper experiences within a
single out-group, while helpful for future interactions toward
that particular out-group, may also result in limited
Table 4. Personality/Demographic and Foreign Travel Experiences
Predictors of Increases in Generalized Trust from Time 1 to Time 2
(N¼245), Study 4.
Independent Variable Model 1 Model 2
Breadth .14* (0.06) .14* (0.06)
Depth .005 (0.005) .006 (0.005)
Gender (0 ¼male,1 ¼female).15 (0.11)
Age .008 (0.009)
SES .09* (0.04)
Extroversion .06 (0.05)
Conscientiousness .004 (0.05)
Agreeableness .10
y
(0.06)
Neuroticism .08 (0.06)
Openness .06 (0.05)
Constant .22** (.05) .47* (.19)
Note.SES¼socioeconomic status. The table represents unstandardized
regression coefficients, with standard errors in parentheses.
y
p< .10. ** p< .01. * p< .05.
Cao et al. 523
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generalizability toward other groups and individuals. Our
research suggests the importance of broad diverse experiences
in creating a high trust environment across a potentially larger
number of groups and individuals.
Across our studies, we never found significant main effects
for depth or a significant interaction between depth and
breadth. One open question is what role depth of foreign
experiences might play in the development of generalized trust.
For example, we found that breadth and depth were highly cor-
related, suggesting that both experiences are likely to be impor-
tant. Indeed, depth of experience likely provides the time and
opportunity for intergroup contact that then allows for breadth
to drive the generalization process. Thus, it may be that some
threshold of time spent in different countries is initially impor-
tant, with further increases in breadth subsequently becoming
the critical factor once a threshold of depth is reached. Indeed,
we would expect that foreign experiences that involve very
brief visits with minimal contact with others, even if across
many countries, are unlikely to result in the positive gains in
generalized trust that we have found here. Nevertheless, it does
seem that the typical broad foreign experience, at least as expe-
rienced by participants in our samples, does involve enough
contact to affect the generalization process. Future research
should do more to explore the role of depth in the development
of generalized trust, investigating whether a threshold level of
depth is required and what that threshold might be.
One remaining question is to what extent broad foreign
experiences overlap with the concept of residential mobility
(e.g., Oishi, 2010). It is important to note that high residential
mobility does not necessarily imply broad experiences
(i.e., several repeated moves within one city or state would
be considered residentially mobile but would not imply breadth
of experiences). Future research could explore whether broad
domestic experiences within a single country lead to higher
generalized trust.
Future research should also continue to explore how people
learn from experiences and develop generalized expectations
toward others. Negative attitudes toward target groups persist
because negative expectations create avoidance and reduced
contacts (Fazio, Eiser, & Shook, 2004). This is especially
problematic when these expectations are false but are never
subject to disconfirmation because of avoidance (Fazio et al.,
2004). Broad foreign experiences may serve to disconfirm
negative expectations regarding the general trustworthiness
of others. Although it is certainly the case that not all foreign
travel experiences will be positive, individuals who travel
broadly are more likely than those without such experiences
to have at least some negative expectations disconfirmed.
The current research provides support for study abroad
programs and expatriate assignments in organizations, but with
a twist—seeing more of the world may be as or more important
than spending a longer period of time seeing less of it.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author-
ship, and/or publication of this article.
Notes
1. We focused on foreign traveling experiences rather than foreign
living experiences because there was too little variance in breadth
of foreign living experiences, that is, the mean was less than one
country (M¼.60, standard deviation ¼.80).
2. http://www.jdsurvey.net/jds/jdsurveyMaps.jsp? Idioma¼I&Seccion
Texto¼0404&NOID¼104
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Author Biographies
Jiyin Cao is a Ph.D. student at the Kellogg School of Management at
Northwestern University. Her research focuses on trust, diversity, cul-
ture, and network structure.
Adam D. Galinsky is the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at
the Columbia Business School at Columbia University. His research
and teaching focus on power, diversity, negotiations, and ethics.
William W. Maddux is an Associate Professor of Organisational
Behaviour at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. His research focuses
on culture, creativity, negotiations, and decision-making.
Cao et al. 525
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... Control variables. Consistent with past research (e.g., Cao et al., 2014), we assessed participants' age, gender, and self-rated Big Five personality traits (i.e., openness to experiences, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability; Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003) as pertinent individual-level control variables. In addition, to control for the moral environments of home country and destination country, for each participant we coded (a) the CPI of home country, (b) the CPI of destination country, (c) the CI of home country, (d) the CI of destination country, (e) the difference between (a) and (b) as a measure of how much more/less corrupt the home country is relative to the destination country, and (f) the difference between (c) and (d) as a measure of how much more/less iniquitous the home country is relative to the destination country. ...
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... Participants indicated the countries that they had visited from a list of the 50 most visited countries compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (2008). Following past research (Cao et al., 2014), we operationalized the breadth of foreign experiences as the number of foreign countries that participants had visited (M ϭ 8.35, SD ϭ 5.56). ...
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