The NUS Department of Psychology is delighted to announce that Dr. Wong Shi Hui Sarah has won the prestigious 2021 Wang Gungwu Medal and Prize (Best Ph.D. Thesis in the Social Sciences and Humanities) for her thesis titled “From Prevention to Promotion: Learning From Deliberate Errors”.
The Wang Gungwu Medal and Prize for best Ph.D. thesis is awarded to only a single recipient each year in the Natural Sciences and Social Sciences/Humanities, respectively; no award will be made unless there is a candidate of sufficient merit. The Prize arises from a donation in 2005 by eminent historian, Professor Wang Gungwu, to recognize the research achievements of graduate students at NUS.
The award-winning work was undertaken as part of Dr. Sarah Wong’s Ph.D. research at our department under the mentorship of Assoc Prof Stephen Lim, and was guided by the overarching question: How can we strategically and systematically learn from our errors?
In her thesis, Dr. Wong developed a Prevention–Permission–Promotion (3P) framework of approaches to errors in learning, and applied it to review current cognitive, educational, and applied psychology research. Whereas errors have typically been avoided or, at best, allowed to occur spontaneously, Dr. Wong challenged these views to propose that deliberately committing and correcting errors enhances learning more than avoiding them—a counterintuitive phenomenon that she termed the derring effect. Across a series of empirical studies, Dr. Wong tested and provided evidence for the benefits of deliberate erring as a novel and potent strategy that improves not only knowledge retention, but also higher order learning outcomes.
The findings arising from Dr. Wong’s Ph.D. research have recently been published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and Educational Psychologist. She is also a recipient of the international 2020 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Student Research Award, which promotes and acknowledges outstanding research conducted by APS Student Affiliates worldwide.
In her earlier interview with APS, Dr. Wong shared,
As psychologists, we routinely acquaint with fascinating examples of errors in human cognition that may serve fundamentally adaptive purposes. We are all fallible. Yet, throughout history, we have constantly striven to deny our ordinary, imperfect, and universal humanity. Thus, it is empowering to know that deliberately committing and correcting errors—the very events that we so often seek to avoid—can in fact benefit us. This research can potentially transform the way in which we approach education in practice and policy. By deliberately embracing our errors and wisely placing ourselves in the way of being wrong, we can overcome and rise stronger.”
We heartily congratulate Dr. Wong on her achievements!
Wong, S. S. H., & Lim, S. W. H. (2019). Prevention–Permission–Promotion: A review of approaches to errors in learning. Educational Psychologist, 54(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2018.1501693
Wong, S. S. H., & Lim, S. W. H. (2021). The derring effect: Deliberate errors enhance learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001072