In this study 12 depressed outpatients were compared to 12 healthy controls with respect to their performance on a number of cognitive tasks, including a recognition-memory task, and their eye movements and pupil size were recorded while watching a traffic film. The recognition-memory task consisted of words with intermediate hedonic tone (neutral words), words with high hedonic tone ('good' words) and words with low hedonic tone ('bad' words). Patients performed slower on perceptual-motor tasks which could be characterized as effort-demanding, while no difference between groups was found on effortless tasks. In addition, the range of horizontal eye movements, an indication of visual span, was found to be less in patients. Signal detection analysis on the recognition-memory data showed an impairment of 'pure' memory in depressives. Analyses on response bias indicated that patients had more false alarms, but only with respect to good words. It is concluded that patients exhibit cognitive deficits, including memory impairment, a narrower visual span and a risky response strategy on good words, which may be an indication of the trouble patients have in processing emotionally toned words. © 1993.