Background. This study explored the possible impairment in inhibiting irrelevant stimuli (as reflected in the backward masking version of the forced-choice span of apprehension task) in subgroups of individuals with schizophrenia. Method. Subjects included 48 schizophrenics and 54 nonpsychiatric controls. Letter arrays were presented at three stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs; 60, 100, 250msec) and three levels of complexity (3, 7, 11 distractor letters). Results. As a group, schizophrenics (n = 54) were impaired relative to nonpsychiatric controls (n = 48) for 7-distractor displays at 60msec and 250msec SOA. Cluster analysis of SAPS and SANS ratings produced four symptom subgroups. Opposing masking performances were found for Psychomotor Poverty (impaired for long SOAs) and Reality Distortion (enhanced at short SOAs) subgroups, whereas the Disorganisation subgroup was globally impaired, and the Episodic subgroup performed similarly overall to controls. Conclusion. The results highlight the potential importance of symptomatology in further elucidating the span of apprehension impairment in schizophrenia.