SUMMARY Event-related potential (ERP) recordings were used to investigate the nature of auditory stimulus evaluation during stage 2 sleep. Frequent and rare stimuli, differing in intensity and frequency, were presented to six adult subjects while awake and asleep. The latency and voltage distribution of one of the long-latency components evoked during sleep resembled the P3 component evoked while awake. However, it was attenuated in voltage and superimposed on N3, a large late negative component, most probably the slow potential of the K complex. The identification of a P3-like potential during sleep suggests that the P3 potential is not solely a marker of active cognitive processes, but contains a small component which reflects automatic, pre-attentive evaluation of deviant stimuli.