Risperidone has been shown to improve verbal working memory, executive functioning, attention, reaction time, and verbal learning, which, in turn, have been associated with improved functional outcomes. We tested whether risperidone was associated with greater improvements than haloperidol in activities of daily living (ADLs) among persons having treatment-refractory schizophrenia. In a double-blind, controlled trial of fixed and flexible doses of haloperidol and risperidone, changes in ADLs were operationally monitored on a behavior therapy unit of a state hospital. While no differential effects were noted between risperidone and haloperidol in ADLS, these self-care skills significantly improved as subjects spent longer times on the behavior therapy unit. Working memory and verbal learning did correlate with improvements in ADLs, independent of drug condition. The contingencies of reinforcement and specific training programs on the behavior therapy unit may have been prepotent for the learning of ADLs, obscuring any differential impact of risperidone. Moreover, ADLs may be governed more by "procedural" learning than by working memory or verbal learning, with the former not differentially influenced by typical verus atypical antipsychotics.