Four tasks relying on short-term retention, i.e. digit span, missing scan, randomization span, and pointing span were presented to patients with frontal-lobe lesions and normal controls. Digit span was considered a measure of passive short-term memory, the other three tasks additionally reflect comparing processes, and two of these, the randomization and pointing spans, also measure active ordering by the subject. The results confirmed Petrides and Milner's (Neuropsychologia 20, 249-262, 1982) hypothesis that frontal-lobe patients are typically deficient in subject-ordered tasks. It is also suggested that they are deficient in a spontaneous generation, rather than comparison component of subjective ordering.