It was investigated whether schizophrenic and depressive patients show a distinguishable mnestic profile. A further aim was to explore the psychopathological correlates of memory malperfomance in schizophrenic patients. For the present study, schizophrenic, depressive and healthy samples (n = 25 each) were compared regarding their performance in the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test. Subjects' sociodemographic background variables were comparable except for age (entered as a covariate). Depressive and schizophrenic patients performed significantly worse than healthy controls regarding both short-term and long-term free recall as well as recognition. No differences occurred for two parameters reflecting proneness to interference. Negative schizophrenic symptomatology was strongly correlated with memory dysfunction before and after controlling for distractibility. The study supports previous research suggesting that memory impairments in schizophrenia are not an epiphenomenon of deficits in verbal fluency or an attentional impairment. The major deficit in both schizophrenic and depressive patients is inferred to be the capability to learn.