Nov 14, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Ever wonder which is more valuable—the souvenir or the place you visited?

New research from the National Trust suggests that your connection to place is more valuable to your well-being than photographs or any other tangible object.

The study shows that people experience strong feelings of well-being and contentment by evoking memories of place, as opposed to treasured objects.

The National Trust study, commissioned by Surrey University, required academics and experts to review fMRI scans, in-depth interviews, and online survey results of over 2000 people regarding place.

In an article in The Guardian, Nino Strachey, head of research for the National Trust said, “Working with leading researchers and academics, and using cutting-edge fMRI brain technology, we examined how places affect people, how they become special and why we feel a pull towards them.”

Researchers looked at the brain activity of 20 volunteers as they were shown different photos of landscapes, homes, and other locations, in additional to personally meaningful objects.

The results? Places with strong personal ties caused the subjects’ brains to get the most excited—specifically the amygdala.

The report concludes, “Therefore, we can conclude that significant places more likely contain greater emotional importance than objects, as areas in our brain involved in emotional processing respond more strongly to significant places.”

Learn more about studying psychology.


Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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