Time of day effects in school-children's immediate and delayed recall of meaningful material.


V.J.Dowson, Newcastle Preparatory School, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.


Randomised controlled trial, with pretest, posttest and delayed posttest. Children matched on pretest before allocation to morning or afternoon group.


Preparatory school in Newcastle, June 1999.


40 pupils from two parallel form groups. There were 12 female and 28 male pupils, with an age range of 7 years 8 months to 8 years 8 months.


Both groups were played the same taped story; the morning group at 09:00h, the afternoon group at 15:00h. Both groups were given a questionnaire to answer containing 20 questions. All the instructions and questions were recorded onto magnetic tape to ensure that both groups received a consistent time for each question, uniform conditions and to enable the less confident readers to answer all the questions as this was not a test of reading ability but of comprehension. The two groups were given the same questionnaire one week later in the same place and at the same time as before..

Data collected

Neale Analysis 'standard reading test of comprehension' used as pretest. Pupils' comprehension measured by 20 item questionnaire. One pupil from each group withdrew after randomisation.


The afternoon group showed a better immediate recall of information (t=2.46, d.f.=36, P=0.02). The delayed recall of the afternoon group was also statistically significantly better than that of the morning group (t=2.56, d.f.=36, P=0.01).

  Morning group   Afternoon group   Effect Size (95% CI)
  Mean N SD   Mean N SD
Immediate test 15.21 19 4.12   17.89 19 2.10   0.80 (0.14, 1.46)
Delayed test 15.00 19 3.55   17.47 19 1.98   0.84 (0.18, 1.50)


The afternoon group had significantly better recall of the story, both immediately after hearing it, and a week later.


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