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I'm talking about Henry Molaison (HM), the famous memory research patient. I hear that he could converse normally with a researcher until he "got distracted", at which point he no longer remembered ever meeting the researcher.

Molaison was able to remember information over short intervals of time. This was tested in a working memory experiment involving the recall of previously presented numbers; in fact, his performance was no worse than that of control subjects (Smith & Kosslyn, 2007).

If distractions were avoided, how long could HM focus and remember the present or task at hand? How long could he talk to researcher before forgetting ever meeting him?

I hear that he was tested for hours. During those tests, did he had to be reminded at some time interval about the test procedure?

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Might be related to the span of short-term memory in general? Not sure... –  BenCole Mar 28 at 13:28
    
Not sure about short term memory, I think of that one as remembering a sequence of digits, not like "remembering who you are talking to and where you are an what time of day it is" –  Alex Stone Mar 29 at 16:50
    
The Wikipedia page for Short-term memory references H.M. specifically, and gives the (uncited) length of 'up to 30 seconds' (though I should say I have no idea whether your first example is short-term, or the second is. I just don't know, sorry). –  BenCole Mar 29 at 19:11

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