Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis

Psychol Bull. 2006 May;132(3):354-80. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.3.354.


The authors performed a meta-analysis of the distributed practice effect to illuminate the effects of temporal variables that have been neglected in previous reviews. This review found 839 assessments of distributed practice in 317 experiments located in 184 articles. Effects of spacing (consecutive massed presentations vs. spaced learning episodes) and lag (less spaced vs. more spaced learning episodes) were examined, as were expanding interstudy interval (ISI) effects. Analyses suggest that ISI and retention interval operate jointly to affect final-test retention; specifically, the ISI producing maximal retention increased as retention interval increased. Areas needing future research and theoretical implications are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Recall*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Verbal Behavior*