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October 1968

Effect of Stress on Earliest Memory

Author Affiliations

From the School of Social Service Administration (Dr. Tobin) and the Committee on Human Development, the University of Chicago (Drs. Tobin and Etigson), Chicago.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1968;19(4):435-444. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1968.01740100051008

A TYPE of reminiscing that has received special attention over the years is that of the "earliest memory," referring either to the earliest event that can be recalled or to the event perceived as being the earliest. The latter, the perceived earliest event, is the focus in the present study where the "earliest memory" is defined by the response to the question "What is the first thing you can remember—go as far back as you can?; and does not include a possibly earlier event that may be elicited by either probing or by special techniques such as hypnosis. Regardless of which definition has been used, the objective of most investigators has been to demonstrate how the earliest memory reflects characterological, or persistent, dispositions.

Recently, however, there has been interest in how the earliest memory reflects the more transitory dispositions that are associated with current environmental

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