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Images of research

Psychology dominates photo competition.

11 June 2018

The prizes at this year's Images of Research competition at the University of Bath were overwhelmingly scooped up by its Psychology Department. Ranging from a selfie of a group of young people with autism spectrum disorders to a representation of people's perceptions of flooding risk the images truly capture the breadth of the field.

Dr Jo Daniels, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the University of Bath, contacted us with her entry, which won in the Best Image category (see above). Titled 'Cold hands, warm… Gloves?', it depicts Raynaud's phenomenon (RP), a painful long-term condition that affects up to 20 per cent of people, mostly women. Daniels told us: 'RP reduces blood-flow to the fingers and toes, causing numbness, pain and disability in affected areas. We do not understand this condition well; however, we do know it has a significant impact on people's lives. This photograph illustrates the role of helping hands – the RP-affected hands are offered for recognition of the impact of the condition, with the red-gloved hands symbolising therapeutic aid to "reperfuse" or regain blood back into the hands.'

The striking picture above of a lemon victorious in a race against a prune, by Yuqing Che and colleagues, illustrates crossmodal correspondence. This describes the arbitrary associations our brains make that can affect all the senses – for example when people are asked who would win in a lemon vs. prune race scenario around 80 per cent of people say the lemon. Che wrote: 'The brain can make use of this associated information in order to learn about the environment with the support from multiple senses. We are investigating crossmodal correspondences in order to better understand how sensory perception affects cognition. It further can inform us on how new assistive technologies for the sensory impaired should be designed in order to maximise treatment benefits.'

The winner of the best overall entry was a group selfie by Professor Mark Brosnan, which depicts 30 young autistic students who took part in the University of Bath's Autism Summer School. The initiative brings together young people with autism spectrum disorders who want to come to university to teach them about university life, social and academic skills and take part in research on university transitions for autistic students. Niall McLoughlin was awarded the Edge Arts Prize for his beautiful photograph of a face overwhelmed with water – illustrating his research on people's perceptions of flooding risk.

Pain Researcher and Director of Engagement at the Department of Psychology, Dr Janet Bultitude, said she was delighted so many of the winning images were from researchers in the department: 'Research psychologists study what makes people tick – from our most basic sensory processes to how our behaviour is shaped by the people around us. Psychology is well suited to events like the Images of Research competition because the topics that we study are very relatable to non-researchers. After all, who isn't interested in better understanding themselves? By engaging with the public research psychologists can unlock people's enthusiasm for thinking critically about how their minds work and what governs their choices, experiences and behaviour.'

We have been inspired by Bath's competition and would be delighted to see photos from your research too. These can be actual photos from the depths of the lab or more symbolic takes on what you explore in your work. Tweet your photos @psychmag with the hashtag #PhotoPsych and a few words of explanation.

To see the shortlist of entries from Bath's 2018 competition go to