Major funding boost to study imagination, theology and psychology

Thursday 10 September 2020

Researchers at the University of St Andrews have received a total of £365,000 in funding for field-defining work drawing on theology and psychology to seek insights into art and the imagination.

The funding, from the Art Seeking Understanding programme of the Templeton Religion Trust, will launch two projects co-hosted by the School of Divinity and the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University.

Judith Wolfe, Professor of Philosophical Theology, has been awarded £185,000 to investigate the relationship between theological-philosophical and psychological accounts of the imagination, in a projected entitled Mapping the Imagination, which will be hosted by the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts. Professor Wolfe will be joined by Dr Marina Iosifian, currently Research Associate in Psychology at the University of Bath.

Brendan Wolfe, Principal Editor of the St Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology, and Dhanraj Vishwanath, Lecturer in Psychology and Neuroscience, have received £180,000 in funding for their project Text & Image, which will study text-inclusive visual artwork to develop and test accounts of art and religious communication. Dr Nicole Ruta will join the project team from her current role as a research officer in visual perception and experimental aesthetics at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Professor Judith Wolfe commented: “These projects will allow theologians and psychologists to bring their insights and methods together to explore the power of art to make us see the world in new ways. Working together on questions that we both care about will also help us understand better how we can support and constructively challenge each other more widely.

“Art Seeking Understanding is a highly selective grant programme funding research into the arts as sources not only of aesthetic enjoyment but also of distinctive modes of understanding. The University of St Andrews is the only institution to secure more than one of the 12 initial grants from the programme.”

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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