The behavioural effects of several BZ (omega) receptor ligands were compared in mice using the light/dark choice task, an animal model of "state" anxiety, and the free-exploration test, which has been proposed as an experimental model of "trait" anxiety. The drugs used included non-selective full (alprazolam, clorazepate, chlordiazepoxide and diazepam), partial agonists (bretazenil, imidazenil and Ro 19-8022) and BZ-1 (omega 1) selective receptor ligands (abecarnil, CL 218,872 and zolpidem). In the light/dark choice task, non-selective full agonists elicited clear anxiolytic-like effects increasing time spent in the lit box and simultaneously reducing attempts at entry into the illuminated cage followed by withdrawal responses, a measure of risk assessment. With the exception of abecarnil, both non-selective partial agonists and BZ-1 (omega 1) selective receptor ligands displayed reduced efficacy compared to the full agonists as they decreased risk assessment responses without altering time in the lit box. In addition, the weak anxiolytic-like actions displayed by selective BZ-1 (omega 1) agents were evident only at doses which reduced locomotor activity, indicating that this effect may be non-specific. In the free-exploration test, non-selective BZ (omega) receptor agonists markedly increased the percentage of time spent in the novel compartment and reduced the number of attempts to enter whereas selective BZ-1 (omega 1) receptor ligands displayed a weaker neophobia-reducing effect as they reduced risk assessment responses only. As was the case in the light/dark choice task, this latter effect was observed at locomotor depressant doses. These findings indicate that while both full and partial BZ (omega) receptor agonists are equally effective against "trait" anxiety, full agonists may be superior in reducing "state" anxiety. In addition, the lack of specific effects of selective BZ-1 (omega 1) receptor ligands in reducing both types of anxiety suggests that the BZ-1 (omega 1) receptor subtype cannot be considered as the primary target mediating the anxiolytic action of drugs interacting with the GABAA benzodiazepine receptor complex.