Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 2175–2199 | Cite as

Retest effects in working memory capacity tests: A meta-analysis

  • Jana ScharfenEmail author
  • Katrin Jansen
  • Heinz Holling


The repeated administration of working memory capacity tests is common in clinical and research settings. For cognitive ability tests and different neuropsychological tests, meta-analyses have shown that they are prone to retest effects, which have to be accounted for when interpreting retest scores. Using a multilevel approach, this meta-analysis aims at showing the reproducibility of retest effects in working memory capacity tests for up to seven test administrations, and examines the impact of the length of the test-retest interval, test modality, equivalence of test forms and participant age on the size of retest effects. Furthermore, it is assessed whether the size of retest effects depends on the test paradigm. An extensive literature search revealed 234 effect sizes from 95 samples and 68 studies, in which healthy participants between 12 and 70 years repeatedly performed a working memory capacity test. Results yield a weighted average of g = 0.28 for retest effects from the first to the second test administration, and a significant increase in effect sizes was observed up to the fourth test administration. The length of the test-retest interval and publication year were found to moderate the size of retest effects. Retest effects differed between the paradigms of working memory capacity tests. These findings call for the development and use of appropriate experimental or statistical methods to address retest effects in working memory capacity tests.


Meta-analysis Retest effect Practice effect Working memory 



We thank David Darby, Susanne M. Jaeggi, Thomas W. Kaminski, Shu-Chen Li, Florian Schmiedek, Nash Unsworth, and Barbara A. Wilson for providing data on eligible studies. This work was partly supported by grant HO 1286/6-4 of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyWestfälische Wilhelms-Universität MünsterMuensterGermany

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