Travel Really Is “Fatal To Prejudice, Bigotry, And Narrow-Mindedness”

Mark Twain famously said,

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.

Yet there are plenty of well-traveled people who are also narrow-minded. So is it true, overall and in the limit, in spite of counter-examples?

New research suggests it is.

Mormons sent on missions became more tolerant of undocumented immigrants, seeing them as individual people with their own stories rather than a social class to be othered. The effect was even greater among those whose missions involved speaking a foreign (non-English) language.

Research suggests that traveling abroad while young and still forming worldviews and spending time speaking with ordinary people at your destination appears to foster Twain’s notion of becoming more open-minded and empathetic towards others without respect to geographic boundaries.

Not all travel meets these conditions, of course.

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