We conducted a meta-analysis of 68 studies published between 1982 and 2000 in which the responses of woody plants to natural or simulated herbivore damage and/or insect herbivore performance on control and damaged plants were measured. Cumulative meta-analyses revealed dramatic temporal changes in the magnitude and direction of the plant and herbivore responses reported during the last two decades. Studies conducted in the 1980s reported increase in phenolic concentrations, reduction in nutrient concentrations and negative effect on herbivore performance, consistently with the idea of induced resistance. In contrast, in the early 1990s when the idea that some types of plant damage may result in induced susceptibility was generally accepted, studies reported non-significant results or induced susceptibility, and smaller effects on herbivores. The above changes may reflect paradigm shifts in the theory of induced defenses and/or the differences between study systems used in the early and the more recent studies. Overall, plant growth and carbohydrate concentrations were reduced in damaged plants despite enhanced photosynthetic rates. Damage increased the concentrations of carbon and phenolics, while terpene concentrations tended to decrease after damage; changes in nutrient concentrations after damage varied according to nutrient mobility, inherent plant growth rate, ontogenetic stage and plant type (deciduous/evergreen). Early season damage caused more pronounced changes in plants than late season damage, which is in accordance with the assumption that vigorously growing foliage has a greater capacity to respond to damage. Insect growth rate and female pupal weight decreased on previously damaged plants, while herbivore survival, consumption and male pupal weight were not significantly affected. The magnitude and direction of herbivore responses depended on the type of plant, the type of damage, the time interval between the damage and insect feeding (rapid/delayed induced resistance), and the timing of the damage.