According to temporal distinctiveness models, items that are temporally isolated from their neighbors during list presentation are more distinct and thus should be recalled better. Event-based theories, by contrast, deny that time plays a role at encoding and predict no beneficial effect of temporal isolation, although they acknowledge that a pause after item presentation may afford extra opportunity for a consolidation process such as rehearsal or grouping. We report two experiments aimed at differentiating between the two classes of theories. The results show that neither serial recall nor probed recall benefit from temporal isolation, unless participants use pauses to group a list. Simulations of the SIMPLE model provide convergent evidence that short-term memory for serial order need not involve temporal representations. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.