Twenty-three acute schizophrenics, 21 acute major depressives (Research Diagnostic Criteria), and 15 normal controls participated in a study on facial expression and emotional face recognition. Under clinical conditions, spontaneous facial expression was assessed according to the affective flattening section of the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms. Under experimental laboratory conditions involuntary (emotion-eliciting interview) and voluntary facial expression (imitation and simulation of six basic emotions) were recorded on videotape, from which a raterbased analysis of intensity or correctness of facial activity was obtained. Emotional face recognition was also assessed under experimental conditions using the same stimulus material. All subjects were assessed twice (within 4 weeks), controlling for change of the psychopathological status in the patient groups. In schizophrenics, neuroleptic drug influence was controlled by random allocation to treatment with either haloperidol or perazine. The main findings were that schizophrenics and depressives are characterized by different quantitative, qualitative, and temporal patterns of affect-related dysfunctions. In particular, schizophrenics demonstrated a trait-like deficit in affect recognition and in their spontaneous and voluntary facial activity, irrespective of medication, drug type and dosage, or extrapyramidal side-effects. In depressives a stable deficit could be demonstrated only in their involuntary expression under emotion-eliciting interview conditions, whereas in the postacute phase a reduction in their voluntary expression became apparent. Differences in patterns of affect-related behavioral deficits may reflect dysfunctions in different underlying psychobiological systems.