To investigate whether an elevated plus-maze consisting of two open and two closed arms could be used as a model of anxiety in the mouse, NIH Swiss mice were tested in the apparatus immediately after a holeboard test. Factor analysis of data from undrugged animals tested in the holeboard and plus-maze yielded three orthogonal factors interpreted as assessing anxiety, directed exploration and locomotion. Anxiolytic drugs (chlordiazepoxide, sodium pentobarbital and ethanol) increased the proportion of time spent on the open arms, and anxiogenic drugs (FG 7142, caffeine and picrotoxin) reduced this measure. Amphetamine and imipramine failed to alter the indices of anxiety. The anxiolytic effect of chlordiazepoxide was reduced in mice that had previously experienced the plus-maze in an undrugged state. Testing animals in the holeboard immediately before the plus-maze test significantly elevated both the percentage of time spent on the open arms and the total number of arm entries, but did not affect the behavioral response to chlordiazepoxide. The plus-maze appears to be a useful test with which to investigate both anxiolytic and anxiogenic agents.