Why Do I Always Forget My Password? Science Says There's A Method To The Madness
My saving grace in life, on more than one occasion, has been the Apple feature that allows you to save passwords to your keychain, but TBH, I feel like even that is probably not the most secure way to store important passwords. For real, though, why do so many of us either keep the exact same password we've had since, like, 2007, or just reset the password every single time we log in to an account? If you're wondering why you always forget your password, take some comfort in the fact that there may be a legit, scientific reason for it.
According to a new study, which was carried out by researchers from Rutgers University and Aalto University in Finland, your brain adapts to better remember a password by estimating how often you'll have to use it. Here's how the study was done: Researchers recruited 100 participants between the ages of 18 and 62, most of whom were college students, the study authors wrote in their paper. In the span of about eight days, each participant was asked to create passwords for eight different online accounts, and to log in to these accounts with varying frequencies to complete a series of tasks. The tasks were to be completed over the course of one month, meaning the participants had to keep logging back in to these accounts throughout that time.
By the end of the study, the results of which were formally published in August at the 27th USENIX Security Symposium in Maryland, the researchers were able to create a theoretical model to explain how and why you forget certain passwords, and why you remember others. Based on that model, the study authors wrote in their paper, "The more important a password is to the user, and the more it is likely to be used in the future, the higher the chances of recalling it." In other words, if you're creating a password for a seven-day free trial of something you'll be sure to cancel before that week is up, your brain probably won't put in the effort to store it away for future use. On the other hand, if you've just changed the password to log in to your computer, your mind recognizes the importance of locking that password down and is more likely to be able to remember it again later.
"Our model could be used to predict the memorability of passwords, measure whether people remember them and prompt password system designers to provide incentives for people to log in regularly," Janne Lindqvist, a study co-author and assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University's School of Engineering, said in a statement. So keep an eye out for further developments on this scientific model, if you want to save time resetting all of your passwords for the millionth time.
In the meantime, if you need some helpful hacks to boost your memory so you never forget a password again, Dr. Mike Roussell, co-founder of Neuro Coffee, recommends adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts to your fitness routine. In a recent interview with Elite Daily, Roussell explained that HIIT workouts, when done regularly, can help to boost the production of a key neuro-protein in the brain, and as a result, this can sharpen your memory and ensure your passwords don't evaporate from your brain.
If HIIT workouts aren't really your thing, The Washington Post says it's definitely a good idea to write your passwords down when they just won't stick in your brain. The key is to physically write the passwords on a piece of paper that you can put away somewhere safe, the publication explains. Saving them in a Word document titled "Passwords," on the other hand, is not a great idea, according to the outlet. But, if you know there's absolutely no way you'll be able to keep track of a random piece of paper, no matter how important the information on it is, maybe shift your focus to creating a password that's hard to forget in the first place.
Another method for creating super secure, yet still memorable passwords, according to PCMag.com, is to base them off of something lyrical, like a quote. For example, the outlet explains, say you love Oscar Wilde's quote, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." You could shorten the sentence to the first letters of each word, keeping the punctuation for even more password security, and end up with "By;eeiat.-OW." Now that is an uncrackable password — come at me, hackers.