Cognitive deficits are common in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) regardless of overt neuropsychiatric involvement; however, a clear neuropsychological profile of SLE has not emerged. This study undertook a literature search of the PubMed, Scopus and Ovid (PsychINFO) databases for studies investigating cognitive alterations in SLE, using standardized neuropsychological (NP) measures. The data were analysed using meta-analytical procedures. The results support the observation that relative to healthy controls, SLE (regardless of overt neuropsychiatric involvement) is associated with statistically significant, small effect-sized deficits in visual attention, cognitive fluency, immediate visual memory and visual reasoning. Moreover, the results support a gradient of cognitive disturbance in SLE with significantly greater cognitive impairment in NPSLE patients relative to non-NPSLE patients. Medium-sized deficits were observed in NPSLE patients relative to healthy controls across the domains of: complex attention, delayed verbal memory, language and verbal reasoning (with small or non-significant differences observed in non-NPSLE patients relative to healthy controls). These results are relevant to the understanding, assessment and rehabilitation of patients living with SLE, with or without overt neuropsychiatric involvement.