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PEDES - Personality Development of Sojourners

Julia Zimmermann & Franz J. Neyer

PEDES is a research project launched by the Department of Personality Psychology and Psychological Assessment at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Overall, about 3.000 students from more than 200 different German universities have participated in the project. With this broad data set we hope to contribute to the better understanding of personality development in general as well as the interplay between personality and international mobility experiences in young adulthood.

Results from the surveys in 2009/10 confirmed the fundamental importance of personality characteristics with regard to mobility decisions. Beyond that, the analyses revealed substantial effect of international mobility experiences on young adults' personality development. In this researched, we focused on basic personality traits (also referred to as the Big Five traits) which include a broad variety of characteristics people use to describe themselves and others. These Big Five traits are Openness (characteristics such as openness to ideas, to actions, and to values), Conscientiousness (dutifulness, self-discipline, achievement striving), Extraversion (gregariousness, warmth, assertiveness), Agreeableness (altruism, trust, compliance), and Neuroticism (anxiety, hostility, vulnerability to stress).

Higher levels of Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness increased the likelihood of international mobility experiences. Beyond that, young adults benefitted from international sojourns in terms of personal maturation. In particular, in comparison to the control group, sojourners revealed more positive developmental trends for Openness, an accentuated increase of Agreeableness, and a steeper decline of Neuroticism. Further analyses revealed that international contact experiences, i.e., international social relationship gains, served as a mediator to explain the sojourn effects on Openness and Neuroticism.

These days, we are planning a follow-up to the PEDES study in cooperation with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) that will take place in autumn 2014 and target at the long-term trends of personality development as well as effects of previous international mobility experiences on the further personal and professional development of young adults.

Some further information on the PEDES study as well as an overview of research results can be retrieved here (in German).


Zimmermann, J. & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Do we become a different person when hitting the road? Personality development of sojourners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105, 515-530. doi: 10.1037/a0033019

Zimmermann, J. & Neyer, F. J. (2014). Places and traces of personality. Psychologia, 57, 115-132.