Piezoresponse force microscopy has been used to perform nanoscale characterization of the spatial variations in the imprint and switching behavior of (111)-oriented Pb(Zr,Ti)O3-based capacitors on Pt electrodes. Mapping of polarization distribution in the poled capacitors as well as local d33–V loop measurements revealed a significant difference in imprint and switching behavior between the peripheral and inner parts of the capacitors. It has been found that the inner regions of the capacitors are negatively imprinted (with the preferential direction of the normal component of polarization upward) and tend to switch back after application of the positive poling voltage. On the other hand, switchable regions at the edge of the integrated capacitors generally exhibit more symmetric hysteresis behavior. Application of an ac switching voltage, contrary to what was expected, resulted in an increase of the negatively imprinted regions. The observed effect has been explained by incomplete or asymmetric switching due to the mechanical stress conditions existing in the central parts of the capacitors. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.