BACKGROUND: Identification of facial emotions has been found to be impaired in schizophrenia but there are uncertainties about the neuropsychological specificity of the finding. METHOD: Twenty-two patients with schizophrenia and 20 healthy controls were given tests requiring identification of facial emotion, judgement of the intensity of emotional expressions without identification, familiar face recognition and the Benton Facial Recognition Test (BFRT). The schizophrenia patients were selected to be relatively intellectually preserved. RESULTS: The patients with schizophrenia showed no deficit in identifying facial emotion, although they were slower than the controls. They were, however, impaired on judging the intensity of emotional expression without identification. They showed impairment in recognizing familiar faces but not on the BFRT. CONCLUSIONS: When steps are taken to reduce the effects of general intellectual impairment, there is no deficit in identifying facial emotions in schizophrenia. There may, however, be a deficit in judging emotional intensity. The impairment found in naming familiar faces is consistent with other evidence of semantic memory impairment in the disorder.