Psychological Research

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 1083–1095 | Cite as

Putting emotions in routes: the influence of emotionally laden landmarks on spatial memory

  • F. RuotoloEmail author
  • M. H. G. Claessen
  • I. J. M. van der Ham
Original Article


The aim of this study was to assess how people memorize spatial information of emotionally laden landmarks along a route and if the emotional value of the landmarks affects the way metric and configurational properties of the route itself are represented. Three groups of participants were asked to watch a movie of a virtual walk along a route. The route could contain positive, negative, or neutral landmarks. Afterwards, participants were asked to: (a) recognize the landmarks; (b) imagine to walk distances between landmarks; (c) indicate the position of the landmarks along the route; (d) judge the length of the route; (e) draw the route. Results showed that participants who watched the route with positive landmarks were more accurate in locating the landmarks along the route and drawing the route. On the other hand, participants in the negative condition judged the route as longer than participants in the other two conditions and were less accurate in mentally reproducing distances between landmarks. The data will be interpreted in the light of the “feelings-as-information theory” by Schwarz (2010) and the most recent evidence about the effect of emotions on spatial memory. In brief, the evidence collected in this study supports the idea that spatial cognition emerges from the interaction between an organism and contextual characteristics.



We thank the two anonymous reviewers and Vivian Valentin (UC Santa Barbara) whose comments/suggestions helped improve and clarify this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The corresponding author (i.e., Ruotolo, F.) declares that he has no conflict of interest. Co-authors M.H.G. Claessen and I.J.M. van der Ham declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The authors declare that all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (i.e., Ethical Committee of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences of Utrecht University) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. Ashby, F. G., Isen, A. M., & Turken, A. U. (1999). A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. Psychological Review, 106, 529–550. Scholar
  2. Balaban, C. Z., Karimpur, H., Röser, F., & Hamburger, K. (2017). Turn left where you felt unhappy: how affect influences landmark-based wayfinding. Cognitive Processing, 18, 135–144. Scholar
  3. Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the False Discovery Rate: a practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the royal statistical society. Series B, 57(1), 289–300.Google Scholar
  4. Bhalla, M., & Proffitt, D. R. (1999). Visual-motor recalibration in geographical slant perception. Journal of experimental psychology: Human perception and performance, 25(4), 1076–1096. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blaison, C., & Hess, U. (2016). Affective judgment in spatial context: how places derive affective meaning from the surroundings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 47, 53–65. Scholar
  6. Borst, G., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2008). Visual mental imagery and visual perception: Structural equivalence revealed by scanning processes. Memory and Cognition, 36(4), 849–862. Scholar
  7. Brunyé, T. T., Gardony, A., Mahoney, C. R., & Taylor, H. A. (2012). Body-specific representations of spatial location. Cognition, 123(2): 229–239. Scholar
  8. Brunyé, T. T., Mahoney, C. R., Augustyn, J. S., & Taylor, H. A. (2009). Emotional state and local versus global spatial memory. Acta Psychologica, 130, 138–146. Scholar
  9. Casasanto, D. (2009). Embodiment of abstract concepts: Good and bad in right- and left-handers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138(3), 351–367. Scholar
  10. Chabanne, V., Peruch, P., Denis, M., & Thinus Blanc, C. (2004). Mental scanning of images constructed from visual experience or verbal descriptions: The impact of survey versus route perspective. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 23, 163–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chan, E., Baumann, O., Bellgrove, M. A., & Mattingley, J. B. (2012). From objects to landmarks: the function of visual location information in spatial navigation. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(304), 1–11. Scholar
  12. Chan, E., Baumann, O., Bellgrove, M. A., & Mattingley, J. B. (2014). Negative emotional experiences during navigation enhance parahippocampal activity during recall of place information. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26, 154–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Corsi, P. M. (1972). Human memory and the medial temporal region of the brain. Ph.D. thesis, Mc Gill University, Montreal, QC.Google Scholar
  14. Denis, M., & Kosslyn, S. M. (1999). Scanning visual mental images: A window on the mind. Current Psychology of Cognition, 18(4), 409–465.Google Scholar
  15. Durgin, F., Baird, J., Greenburg, M., Russell, R., Shaughnessy, K., & Waymouth, S. (2009). Who is being deceived? The experimental demands of wearing a backpack. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16(5), 964–969. Scholar
  16. Finke, R. A., & Pinker, S. (1982). Spontaneous imagery scanning in mental extrapolation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 8, 142–147.Google Scholar
  17. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American psychologist, 56, 218–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gardony, A., Brunyé, T. T., Mahoney, C. R., & Taylor, H. A. (2011). Affective states influence spatial cue utilization during navigation. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 20(3), 223–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gardony, A., Taylor, H. A., & Brunyé, T. T. (2016). Gardony map drawing analyzer: software for quantitative analysis of sketch maps. Behavior Research Methods, 48(1), 151–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gartner, G. (2012). Putting emotions in maps—the wayfinding example., pp 61–65. Retrieved from
  21. Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Attending to the big picture: mood and global versus local processing of visual information. Psychological Science, 13(1), 34–40. Scholar
  22. Iachini, T., Poderico, C., Ruggiero, G., & Iavarone, A. (2005). Age differences in mental scanning of locomotor maps. Disability and rehabilitation, 27(13), 741–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Iachini, T., & Ruggiero, G. (2010). The role of visual experience in mental scanning of actual pathways: evidence from blind and sighted people. Perception, 39(7), 953–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Iachini, T., Ruggiero, G., & Gnisci, A. (2006). Mental scanning of spatial images generated from locomotion. Journal of Mental Imagery, 30(1 and 2), 65–92.Google Scholar
  25. Kosslyn, S. M., Ball, T. M., & Reiser, B. J. (1978). Visual images preserve metric spatial information: evidence from studies of image scanning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 4, 47–60.Google Scholar
  26. Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2008). International affective picture system (IAPS): Affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual. Technical Report A-8. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.Google Scholar
  27. Marteau, T. M., & Bekker, H. (1992). The development of a six-item short-form of the state scale of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 31(3), 301–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McGaugh, J. L. (2013). Making lasting memories: remembering the significant. PNAS, 110(2), 10402–10407. Scholar
  29. Storbeck, J., & Maswood, R. (2016). Happiness increases verbal and spatial working memory capacity where sadness does not: emotion, working memory and executive control. Cognition and Emotion, 30, 925–938. Scholar
  30. Michon, P. E., & Denis, M. (2001). When and why are visual landmarks used in giving directions. In D. R. Montello (Ed.), Spatial Information Theory: Foundations of Geographic Information Science (pp. 292–305). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Palmiero, M., Nori, R., Rogolino, C., D’Amico, S., & Piccardi, L. (2015). Situated navigational working memory: the role of positive mood. Cognitive Processing, 16(1):327–30. Scholar
  32. Palmiero, M., & Piccardi, L. (2017). The Role of Emotional Landmarks on Topographical Memory. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 763. Scholar
  33. Piccardi, L., Bianchini, F., Argento, O., De Nigris, A., Maialetti, A., Palermo, L., et al. (2013). The walking corsi test (WalCT): standardization of the topographical memory test in an Italian population. Neurological Science, 34, 971–978. Scholar
  34. Piccardi, L., Iaria, G., Ricci, M., Bianchini, F., Zompanti, L., & Guariglia, C. (2008). Walking in the Corsi test: which type of memory do you need? Neuroscience Letters, 432, 127–131. Scholar
  35. Proffitt, D., & Linkenauger, S. A. (2013). Perception viewed as a phenotypic expression. In W. Prinz, M. Beisert & A. Herwig (Eds.), Action science: Foundations of an emerging discipline. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Proffitt, D. R. P., Bhalla, M., Gossweiler, R., & Midgett, J. (1995). Perceiving geographical slant. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 2, 409–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Raubal, M., & Winter, S. (2002). Enriching Wayfinding Instructions with Local Landmarks. In M. J. Egenhofer & D. M. Mark (Eds.), Geographic Information Science. GIScience 2002. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Vol. 2478). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  38. Revelle, W., & Loftus, D. (1992). The implications of arousal effects for the study of affect and memory. In S. A. Christianson (Ed.), Handbook of emotion and memory (pp. 113–150). Hillsdale: Erlebaum.Google Scholar
  39. Riener, C. R., Stefanucci, J. K., Proffitt, D. R., & Clore, G. L. (2011). An effect of mood on the perception of geographical slant. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 174–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ruotolo, F., Ruggiero, G., Vinciguerra, M., & Iachini, T. (2012). Sequential vs simultaneous encoding of spatial information: a comparison between the blind and the sighted. Acta Psychologica, 139, 382–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schwarz, N. (2010). Feelings-as-information theory. In P. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Schwarz, N., & Clore, G. L. (2007). Social psychology: a handbook of basic principles. 2 (pp. 385–407). New York: Guilford Press. (Feelings and Phenomenal Experiences).Google Scholar
  43. Stefanucci, J. K., & Storbeck, J. (2009). Don’t look down: emotional arousal elevates height perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Steyer, R., Schwenkmezger, P., Notz, P., & Eid, M. (1997). Der Mehrdimensionale Befindlichkeitsfragebogen (MDBF). Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  45. Teachman, B. A., Stefanucci, J. K., Clerkin, E. M., Cody, M. W., & Proffitt, D. R. (2008). New modes of fear expression: Perceptual and implicit association biases in height fear. Emotion, 8, 296–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Thompson, R. (1985). A note on restricted maximum likelihood estimation with an alternative outlier model. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series B (Methodological), 471(1), 53–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Tversky, B. (2009). Spatial cognition: Embodied and situated. In Murat, Aydede & P. Robbins (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition (201–217 (2009)). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Yang, H., Yang, S., & Isen, A. (2013). Positive affect improves working memory: Implications for controlled cognitive processing. Cognition and Emotion, 27, 474–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zadra, J. R., & Clore, G. L. (2011). Emotion and Perception: The Role of Affective Information. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 2(6), 676–685. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Ruotolo
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • M. H. G. Claessen
    • 3
  • I. J. M. van der Ham
    • 3
  1. 1.SCALab UMR CNRS 9193Université de LilleVilleneuve d’Ascq CedexFrance
  2. 2.Helmholtz Institute, Experimental PsychologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Health, Medical and NeuropsychologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations