Dopamine D(3) receptor antagonists exert pro-cognitive effects in both rodents and primates. Accordingly, this study compared the roles of dopamine D(3) vs D(2) receptors in social novelty discrimination (SND), which relies on olfactory cues, and novel object recognition (NOR), a visual-recognition task. The dopamine D(3) receptor antagonist, S33084 (0.04-0.63 mg/kg), caused a dose-related reversal of delay-dependent impairment in both SND and NOR procedures in adult rats. Furthermore, mice genetically deficient in dopamine D(3) receptors displayed enhanced discrimination in the SND task compared with wild-type controls. In contrast, acute treatment with the preferential dopamine D(2) receptor antagonist, L741,626 (0.16-5.0 mg/kg), or with the dopamine D(3) agonist, PD128,907 (0.63-40 μg/kg), caused a dose-related impairment in performance in rats in both tasks after a short inter-trial delay. Bilateral microinjection of S33084 (2.5 μg/side) into the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of rats increased SND and caused a dose-related (0.63-2.5 μg/side) improvement in NOR, while intra-striatal injection (2.5 μg/side) had no effect on either. In contrast, bilateral microinjection of L741,626 into the PFC (but not striatum) caused a dose-related (0.63-2.5 μg/side) impairment of NOR. These observations suggest that blockade of dopamine D(3) receptors enhances both SND and NOR, whereas D(3) receptor activation or antagonism of dopamine D(2) receptor impairs cognition in these paradigms. Furthermore, these actions are mediated, at least partly, by the PFC. These data have important implications for exploitation of dopaminergic mechanisms in the treatment of schizophrenia and other CNS disorders, and support the potential therapeutic utility of dopamine D(3) receptor antagonism.