Maps enable us to relate to spatial phenomena and events from viewpoints far beyond direct experience. By employing signs and symbols, maps communicate about near as well as distant geospatial phenomena, events, objects, or ideas. Besides acting as identifiers, map signs and symbols may, however, not only denote but also connote. While most cartographic research has focused on the denoting character of visual variables, research from related disciplines stresses the importance of connotative qualities on affect, cognition, and behavior. Hence, this research focused on the connotative character of map symbols by empirically assessing the affective qualities of shape stimuli. In three stimulus conditions of cartographic and non-cartographic contexts, affective responses towards a set of eight shape stimuli were assessed by employing a semantic differential technique. Overall findings showed that shape symbols lead to, at times, highly distinctive affective responses. Findings further suggest two particular stimulus clusters of affective qualities that prevailed over all stimulus conditions, i.e., a cluster of asymmetric stimuli and a cluster of symmetric stimuli. Between the intersection of psychology, cartography, and semiotics, this paper outlines theoretical perspectives on cartographic semiotics, discusses empirical findings, and addresses implications for future research.
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