Memory & Cognition

, Volume 42, Issue 6, pp 965–977 | Cite as

Between-list lag effects in recall depend on retention interval

  • Mary A. PycEmail author
  • David A. Balota
  • Kathleen B. McDermott
  • Tim Tully
  • Henry L. RoedigerIII


Although the benefits of spaced retrieval for long-term retention are well established, the majority of this work has involved spacing over relatively short intervals (on the order of seconds or minutes). In the present experiments, we evaluated the effectiveness of spaced retrieval across relatively short intervals (within a single session), as compared to longer intervals (between sessions spaced a day apart), for long-term retention (i.e., one day or one week). Across a series of seven experiments, participants (N = 536) learned paired associates to a criterion of 70 % accuracy and then received one test–feedback trial for each item. The test–feedback trial occurred within 10 min of reaching criterion (short lag) or one day later (long lag). Then, a final test occurred one day (Exps. 13) or one week (Exps. 4 and 5) after the test–feedback trial. Across the different materials and methods in Experiments 13, we found little benefit for the long-lag relative to the short-lag schedule in final recall performance—that is, no lag effect—but large effects on the retention of information from the test–feedback to the final test phase. The results from the experiments with the one-week retention interval (Exps. 4 and 5) indicated a benefit of the long-lag schedule on final recall performance (a lag effect), as well as on retention. This research shows that even when the benefits of lag are eliminated at a (relatively long) one-day retention interval, the lag effect reemerges after a one-week retention interval. The results are interpreted within an extension of the bifurcation model to the spacing effect.


Memory Recall Spacing effects Lag effects 


Author note

Supported by a grant from Dart Neuroscience, LLC. We thank David Blinn, Nicole McKay, John Slochower, Alexandra Taylor, and Teresa Yao for assistance with data collection and scoring.


  1. Arnold, K. M., & McDermott, K. B. (2013a). Free recall enhances subsequent learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 507–513. doi: 10.3758/s13423-012-0370-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arnold, K. M., & McDermott, K. B. (2013b). Test-potentiated learning: Distinguishing between direct and indirect effects of tests. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 940–945. doi: 10.1037/a0029199 PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bahrick, H. P., Bahrick, L. E., Bahrick, A. S., & Bahrick, P. E. (1993). Maintenance of foreign language vocabulary and the spacing effect. Psychological Science, 4, 316–321. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00571.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balota, D. A., Duchek, J. M., & Paullin, R. (1989). Age-related differences in the impact of spacing, lag and retention interval. Psychology and Aging, 4, 3–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Balota, D. A., Duchek, J. M., Sergent-Marshall, S. D., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2006). Does expanded retrieval produce benefits over equal-interval spacing? Explorations of spacing effects in healthy aging and early stage Alzheimer’s disease. Psychology and Aging, 21, 19–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bjork, R. A. (1994). Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings. In J. Metcalfe & A. Shimamura (Eds.), Metacognition: Knowing about knowing (pp. 185–205). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354–380. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.3.354 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cepeda, N. J., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., & Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing effect in learning: A temporal ridgeline of optimal retention. Psychological Science, 19, 1095–1102.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crowder, R. G. (1976). Principles of learning and memory. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Cull, W. (2000). Untangling the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing for cued recall. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, 215–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delaney, P. F., Verkoeijen, P. P. J. L., & Spirgel, A. (2010). Spacing and testing effects: A deeply critical, lengthy, and at times discursive review of the literature. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 53, pp. 63–147). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  12. Donovan, J. J., & Radosevich, D. J. (1999). A meta-analytic review of the distribution of practice effect: Now you see it, now you don’t. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 795–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ebbinghaus, H. (1913). Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology (H. A. Ruger & C. E. Bussenius, Trans.). New York: Columbia University, Teachers College. Original work published 1885.Google Scholar
  14. Glenberg, A. M., & Lehmann, T. S. (1980). Spacing repetitions over 1 week. Memory & Cognition, 8, 528–538. doi: 10.3758/BF03213772 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goverover, Y., Basso, M., Wood, H., Chiaravalloti, N., & DeLuca, J. (2011). Examining the benefits of combining two learning strategies on recall of functional information in persons with multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 17, 1488–1497.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greene, R. L. (2008). Repetition and spacing effects. In H. L. Roediger (Ed.), Learning and memory: A comprehensive reference (Cognitive psychology of memory, Vol. 2, pp. 65–78). Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  17. Halamish, V., & Bjork, R. A. (2011). When does testing enhance retention? A distribution-based interpretation of retrieval as a memory modifier. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 801–812.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hartwig, M. K., & Dunlosky, J. (2012). Study strategies of college students: Are self-testing and scheduling related to achievement? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 126–134. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0181-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Izawa, C. (1966). Reinforcement-test sequences in paired-associate learning. Psychological Reports, 18, 879–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karpicke, J. D., & Bauernschmidt, A. (2011). Spaced retrieval: Absolute spacing enhances learning regardless of relative spacing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37, 1250–1257. doi: 10.1037/a0023436 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Karpicke, J. D., Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2009). Metacognitive strategies in student learning: Do students practice retrieval when they study on their own? Memory, 17, 471–479. doi: 10.1080/09658210802647009 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2007). The promise and perils of self-regulated study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 219–224. doi: 10.3758/BF03194055 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kornell, N., Castel, A. D., Eich, T. S., & Bjork, R. A. (2010). Spacing as the friend of both memory and induction in young and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 25, 498–503.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kornell, N., Bjork, R. A., & Garcia, M. A. (2011). Why tests appear to prevent forgetting: A distribution-based bifurcation model. Journal of Memory and Language, 65, 85–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Küpper-Tetzel, C. E., & Erdfelder, E. (2012). Encoding, maintenance, and retrieval processes in the lag effect: A multinomial processing tree analysis. Memory, 20, 37–47.Google Scholar
  26. Landauer, T. K., & Bjork, R. A. (1978). Optimum rehearsal patterns and name learning. In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.), Practical aspects of memory (pp. 625–632). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Litman, L. & Davachi, L. (2008). Distributed learning enhances relational memory consolidation. Learning and Memory, 15, 711–716.Google Scholar
  28. Maddox, G. B., & Balota, D. A. (2012). Self control of when and how much to test face–name pairs in a novel spaced retrieval paradigm: An examination of age-related differences. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 19, 620–643. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2011.640658 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Madigan, S. A. (1969). Intraserial repetition and coding processes in free recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 8, 828–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mason, W., & Suri, S. (2012). Conducting behavioral research on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Behavior Research Methods, 44, 1–23. doi: 10.3758/s13428-011-0124-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Melton, A. W. (1967). Repetition and retrieval from memory. Science, 158, 532. doi: 10.1126/science.158.3800.532-b PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Melton, A. W. (1970). The situation with respect to the spacing of repetitions and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 9, 596–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peterson, L. R., Wampler, R., Kirkpatrick, M., & Saltzman, D. (1963). Effect of spacing presentations on retention of a paired associate over short intervals. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 66, 206–209. doi: 10.1037/h0046694 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pyc, M. A., & Rawson, K. A. (2009). Testing the retrieval effort hypothesis: Does greater difficulty correctly recalling information lead to higher levels of memory? Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 437–447. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2009.01.004 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pyc, M. A., Balota, D. A., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L., III. (2014). Is There a Benefit of a 24 Hour Spacing Interval? No After a Day, Yes After a Week. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  36. Rawson, K. A., & Dunlosky, J. (2011). Optimizing schedules of retrieval practice for durable and efficient learning: How much is enough? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140, 283–302. doi: 10.1037/a0023956 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rawson, K. A., & Kintsch, W. (2005). Rereading effects depend on time of test. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 70–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Robbins, D., & Bush, C. T. (1973). Memory in great apes. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 97, 344–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roediger, H. L., III, & Butler, A. C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in Cognitive Science, 15, 20–27. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Roediger, H. L., III, & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249–255. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01693.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sargis, E. G., Skitka, L. J., & McKeever, W. (2013). The Internet as psychological laboratory revisited: Best practices, challenges, and solutions. In Y. Amichai-Hamburger (Ed.), The social net: Understanding our online behavior (2nd ed., pp. 253–270). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Simone, P. M., Bell, M. C., & Cepeda, N. J. (2012). Diminished but not forgotten: Effects of aging on magnitude of spacing effect benefits. Journals of Gerontology, 68B, 674–680. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbs096 Google Scholar
  43. Sobel, H. S., Cepeda, N. J., & Kapler, I. V. (2011). Spacing effects in real-world classroom vocabulary learning. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 763–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Toppino, T. C., Fearnow-Kenney, M. D., Kiepert, M. H., & Teremula, A. C. (2009). The spacing effect in intentional and incidental free recall by children and adults: Limits on the automaticity hypothesis. Memory & Cognition, 37, 316–325. doi: 10.3758/MC.37.3.316 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tully, T., Preat, T., Boynton, S. C., & Del Vecchio, M. (1994). Genetic dissection of consolidated memory in Drosophila. Cell, 79, 35–47.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wissman, K. T., Rawson, K. A., & Pyc, M. A. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards? Memory, 20, 568–579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zacks, J. M., & Swallow, K. M. (2007). Event segmentation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 80–84. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2007.00480.x PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zacks, J. M., Speer, N. K., Swallow, K. M., Braver, T. S., & Reynolds, J. R. (2007). Event perception: A mind/brain perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 273–293. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.2.273 PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary A. Pyc
    • 1
    Email author
  • David A. Balota
    • 1
  • Kathleen B. McDermott
    • 1
  • Tim Tully
    • 2
  • Henry L. RoedigerIII
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Dart NeuroscienceSan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations