Although atypical antipsychotics have been associated with improvements in cognitive function in schizophrenia, the neurochemical basis for such effects is not well understood. Candidate neurotransmitter systems primarily involve dopamine and serotonin. The current study explored this issue by examining the cognitive abilities, social function and quality of life in patients with schizophrenia who were medicated with atypical antipsychotics. Comparisons were done for matched schizophrenia patients who were on antipsychotics with (i) an affinity for multiple receptors (olanzapine, clozapine, quetiapine) versus those that have preferential affinity for dopamine receptors (risperidone, amisulpride); and patients on medication with (ii) a high affinity for serotonin (5HT-2A) receptors (risperidone, olanzapine, clozapine) versus those with a low (or no) affinity for 5HT-2A receptors (quetiapine, amisulpride). No differences emerged between groups on any cognitive or social variable when the groups were compared for the dopaminergic properties of antipsychotic medication. By contrast, differences did emerge when patients were compared on the 5HT-2A affinity of their antipsychotic medications. Patients on low 5HT-2A-affinity antipsychotics exhibited a better performance on a measure of selective attention and adjustment to living. These findings accord with the notion that serotonergic mechanisms are important determinants of both the cognitive and the social effects of the atypical antipsychotics.