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Elderly patients with major depression and normal controls completed the Sternberg short-term memory scanning procedure and WAIS Digit Symbol. Depressed patients demonstrated psychomotor slowing on both tasks, but normal response latency as a function of memory set size on the Sternberg procedure. While cognitive-behavioural slowing may be observed in both depressive illness and subcortical neurological disorders, a normal rate of processing information centrally appears to distinguish depression from certain of these disorders. Psychomotor slowing in the presence of normal information processing speed might be explained by a deficit in motivational state associated with depression.