OK, well which is it? Is the username or the password incorrect? Retrieve username… ok, that is correct, so it must be the password. Forgot password… wait. No. I don’t want to create a new password! Why can’t I retrieve THAT. Ok, I guess I need to jump through the hoops. WHAT?! I can’t use a previous password! But, when I tried to log in, you told me my password was incorrect! My new password is required to be a minimum of 8 characters; with at least one uppercase letter, at least one lowercase, a number and a special character but the the special character may not be @ or # and I must enter it using my toes while standing on my head! Ok, I actually made that last part up, but the rest of it is pretty spot on.
This wasn’t meant to be a rant, but feels good to get that out of my head. I need to save the space for more important things. I’ve been walking down memory lane recently and noted with friends, how it’s funny that we can remember things from childhood, like our previous addresses or our first phone number but can’t seem to remember passwords that are necessary in life nowadays.
It’s not you, here’s why your memory seems to fail you now. There are three stages in the memory process; encoding, storage and retrieval (Melton 1963). Encoding is the initial learning of the information, storage refers to maintaining of that information over time and retrieval is the ability to access and recall that information. Memories are created with the reactivation of neurons in your brain. That, coupled with your experiences form the memory.
There are many theories about the types of memory. Some researchers suggest that rather than types, there are stages. In this view, it starts with sensory memory, transitions to short term memory and then may become a long term memory. Every time we would give someone our phone number, in the days before everyone had a cell phone, we had to say our number out loud and while doing so we would hear ourselves saying it which created an Echoic Memory. An Echoic memory has to do with sound and hearing. We did this over and over throughout the years, to anyone that we wanted to give our number to, that is, unless we wrote our number down to give them. Writing it down created a Haptic memory. A Haptic memory is associated with your sense of touch. Between repeatedly saying it or writing it, the repetition created a long term memory. That is why you can still rattle off that phone number even though you haven’t used it for years… in my case, decades.
But why is it so hard to remember that password I need now? First of all, you never say it out loud. You keep that password to yourself because revealing it could wreak havoc upon your life as we know it. If you write it down, it is only the one time, because you are afraid you won’t remember it. To complicate matters, we are supposed to use a different password for every single thing we need a password for, which is basically EVERY SINGLE THING! Lastly, even if you commit it to long term memory, for the sake of cyber security you are forced to change your password when you are least expecting to do so! And when that happens, they keep changing the requirements to create new passwords. Sorry for the secondary rant, but it just proves that it’s not us. Our memory and brain are fine. It’s them.
That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.