According to temporal distinctiveness theories, items that are temporally isolated from their neighbours during presentation are more distinct and thus are recalled better. Event-based theories, which deny that elapsed time plays a role at encoding, explain isolation effects by assuming that temporal isolation provides extra time for rehearsal or consolidation of encoding. The two classes of theories can be differentiated by examining the symmetry of isolation effects: Event-based accounts predict that performance should be affected only by pauses following item presentation (because they allow time for rehearsal or consolidation), whereas distinctiveness predicts that items should also benefit from preceding pauses. The first experiment manipulated inter-item intervals and showed an effect of intervals following but not preceding presentation, in line with event-based accounts. The second experiment showed that the effect of following interval was abolished by articulatory suppression. The data are consistent with event-based theories but can be handled by time-based distinctiveness models if they allow for additional encoding during inter-item pauses.