The Coming PIN Code Epidemic: A First Study of Memory of Numeric Security Codes

Martin Rasmussen, Floyd Webster Rudmin


Most people must remember various numeric passwords, security codes and PIN numbers for banking, credit cards, debit cards, online accounts, cell phones, door locks, luggage locks, etc. One pilot study (N=13) developed a list of eleven strategies for remembering numeric codes, and another (N=15) optimized the research questionnaire which asked respondents about a) the number of security codes they had, b) the number of self-created codes, c) mnemonic strategies used, d) problems and effort remembering codes, and e) gender, age, and education. Respondents (N=388) had a median of 4 security codes and typically used 2 different memory strategies, the most common of which were based on repetition and on key pad pattern. Difficulties remembering codes were unrelated to gender or education but were positively correlated with age and with number of strategies used. Self-creation of codes slightly reduced difficulties remembering numeric codes.

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memory; mnemonics; online banking; passwords; PIN; security codes

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ISSN 1832-7931
Swinburne University of Technology