Individuals infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and having cognitive impairment have been described as having slow mentation. Data supporting this proposition come from a variety of sources, including Sternberg's (1966) item recognition memory task. The procedure nominally provides an index of speed of mental operations, independent from input/output demands. However, since the original use of this procedure in the 1960s, advances in cognitive psychology have revealed many of its limitations. The purpose of the present study was to examine the psychometric characteristics of this task. Each participant performed the Sternberg item recognition task twice, 6 mo apart. The stability of the estimate of the slope of regression equations and for zero intercept ranged from excellent (r = .87) to poor (r = .30), and the data from many individual subjects could not be reliably modelled using multiple linear regression techniques. These data, as well as those from previous research, demonstrate the limited practical use of this task in clinical samples. Furthermore, as cognitive psychological theory has advanced in the past 30 yr, the conceptual underpinnings of the procedure have essentially evaporated. (JINS, 1995, 1, 3–9).