Passwords usage and human memory limitations: A survey across age and educational background

The present article reports a survey conducted to identify the practices on passwords usage, focusing particularly on memory limitations and the use of passwords across individuals with different age and education backgrounds. A total of 263 participants were interviewed, with ages ranging from 18 to 93 years, and education level ranging from grade school to graduate degree. Contrary to our expectations, effects of cognitive decline due to aging were not observed on memory performance for passwords. The results suggested instead, that the number of password uses was the most influential factor on memory performance. That is, as the number of circumstances in which individuals utilized passwords increased, the incidence of forgotten and mixed-up passwords also increased. The theoretical significance of these findings and their implications for good practices on password usage are discussed.