BACKGROUND The aim of this study was to investigate mnemonic strategic deficits in schizophrenic patients. METHODS Analogous tasks were used that required the self-generation of an efficient strategy and its implementation in two domains: visuospatial and verbal. The tasks were given to 20 IQ preserved schizophrenics and 20 matched normal controls. A number of different scores was derived from each task including strategy, short-term memory capacity and perseveration. RESULTS Overall, the schizophrenic patients were significantly impaired in their ability to generate effective mnemonic strategies on both tasks. In addition, on the visuospatial task there was no difference between the groups on the memory scores, but the schizophrenic patients made significantly more perseverative errors than controls. They were disproportionately worse on the verbal strategy task, showing impairment on memory as well as on strategy scores and were also impaired at semantically classifying the words. Performance was similar to the deficit seen in patients with frontal lobe excisions and Parkinson's disease, in terms of the inability to generate an effective strategy. The deficit on the verbal task was similar to patients with temporal lobe excisions who show impaired verbal memory. However, the pattern differed in the sense that the temporal lobe patients were able to generate effective strategies, unlike the patients with schizophrenia. CONCLUSIONS High functioning schizophrenic patients are impaired in utilizing visuospatial and verbal mnemonic strategies. By comparing the results with those of neurosurgical excision patients, further evidence is provided for both frontal and temporal lobe involvement in schizophrenia.