Can’t Recall Your Password? Try This.

Our brains are littered with passwords from bank accounts, PINs, work e-mail, network log-ons, e-commerce and social networking sites.

How bad is the alphanumeric clutter in our heads? The average person now must remember five passwords, five PIN numbers, two number plates, three security ID numbers and three bank account numbers, according to research from Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at the Institute of Neuroscience and School of Psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. His research found that nearly 60 percent of those studied felt they couldn’t remember all these numbers and letters. As a result, most users create weak passwords or rely on technology to create or store alphanumeric data.

Robertson says that people can remember more information if they practice visualizing it. “We could happily remember two dozen passwords using some fairly standard memory methods,” he says

He points to one long-standing way to recall numerical-based passwords: visual imagery. First, create an easy-to-recall rhyming word for each number of your password, one through 10. “One is bun, two is shoe, three is tree, four is door, five is hive, six is sticks, seven is heaven, eight is gate, nine is wine and 10 is hen,” Robertson suggests. So if, say, your code is 6329, you would first visualize a pile of sticks (for six), spread all around a tree (three), where a shoe (two) is hanging on the tree, and a glass of wine (nine) is pouring over the tree. The same approach works for alphanumeric passwords.

“The first few times will be time consuming,” says Robertson. “But if you get into the habit, you could remember two or three dozen visual images.”

-Tom Wailgum

HT: CIO (Oct 15, 2008), p.11


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