OBJECTIVES: This study was to compare verbal memory ability among patients with schizophrenia, bipolar manic patients and unipolar depressive patients, and to understand their charicteristics of memory process. METHODS: All subjects were hospitalized patients and had been interviewed by using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV(SCID). Schizophrenic patients(N=40), bipolar manic patients(N=17), and unipolar depressive patients(N=20) were assessed with K-AVLT for verbal memory and with K-WAIS for verbal IQ. Three groups were compared regarding total immediate recall, delayed recall, delayed recognition, learning curve, memory retention, and retrieval efficiency under controlled verbal IQ. Multiple regression analysis was performed to find which clinical factors have an influence on verbal memory ability. RESULTS: In MANCOVA, differences of verbal memory test scores among the groups were statistically significant(F=1.800, p<.05). In post hoc analysis, Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar mania showed poorer performance in immediate recall, delayed recall, delayed recognition, retrieval efficiency than unipolar depressive patients. And schizophrenics performed poorly in delayed recall, delayed recognition, retrieval efficiency than nonpsychotic affective disorder group, but no difference in total immediate recall, delayed recall, delayed recognition, retrieval efficiency between the schizophrenic group and the psychotic affective group. CONCLUSIONS: These results partially confirm previous reports of verbal memory ability among major psychiatric disorders. Our results showed that psychotic symptoms were related with verbal memory, and longer duration of illness was related with poorer performance in schizophrenia and unipolar depression.