Can you make a Pin stick in your head?


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

You can barely get through the day without using at least one four-digit figure. Prepare to memorise more, warns Sean Coughlan

Saturday August 2, 2003
The Guardian

Pin numbers have infiltrated every part of our lives. Four-digit mania started with cash machines but has now become the mundane security gateway to everything from mobile phones to the locker at your sports centre.
Billions of numbers are pumped out to consumers every year - but what do you do with yours? Do you memorise each different Pin or do you instantly change them to the one pin number you can remember?
Is the Pin number you have chosen the same as your birth year? If so, you're in uncomfortably common company: thieves typically enter 195 or 196 as the first three numbers for a stolen card.
Perhaps you memorise Pin numbers as shapes, sequences or dates. But, no matter how you cope with the figures, one thing's for certain: you're going to have to get your head round those vital digits even more from now on.
Next month Britain will be hit with an avalanche of new Pin numbers, as the national roll-out of the so-called "chip and pin" system after a successful trial in Northampton begins.
In an effort to fight mounting fraud, the credit and debit card business is getting rid of the signature at the checkout and replacing it with a Pin number in the style that the French have used for more than a decade.
Visa, one of the organisations behind the chip and pin revolution, says only 4% of us don't feel confident with four-digit Pin numbers, suggesting that we've become accustomed to the idea of tapping in our numbers, whether it's for withdrawing money or using a mobile phone. Even the increasing number of Pin codes has not sent us into a memory tailspin, says the Visa survey. Almost a third of people claim not to be troubled at all by memorising a wide range of numbers, which these days could include everything from accessing your internet bank, unlocking the office door to ordering a movie on cable television.
And perhaps even more surprising, almost two in five cardholders don't change the Pin numbers given to them by banks and credit cards, and are ready to add fresh numbers to their daily memory challenge.
But the rest of us, with more fallible memories, are likely to change the numbers we're sent at the first opportunity.
More than a quarter of people change their code to the same four digits that they use for other Pin numbers - and one in five cardholders change to an easy to remember series of numbers. There are no marks at all for the one in 10 who, against all advice, write down their numbers.
And at either end of the competence spectrum, there are about the same number of people who immediately lose the Pin number they've been sent as there are Pin anoraks who change their numbers every month.
The Pin numbers we select are the secret keys to huge tracts of our private life, so how should we make them secure? And how do we choose them so that we won't forget?
According to Adrian Furnham, psychology professor at University College London, memorising several Pin numbers shouldn't be a problem if we approach it in the right way.
"Remembering Pin numbers should be relatively easy because there are only four numbers, people already have experience of doing so and many have developed strategies to do so.
"With use and practice and a few techniques, it should not be difficult for the average adult to commit to memory at least three sets of four-digit Pin numbers. I would expect nine out of 10 people to have no problem," he says.
It's not a question of memory capacity, he says, but the way that we store the information and the "retrieval cues" that allow us to remember the numbers when we need them.
We're already using a number of tricks to jog our memories when we choose numbers, says Visa, and it suggests that with a little effort, we could make our Pin numbers less easy to guess.
For instance, people change their four numbers to an easy to remember year. But instead of the most predictable option - like choosing your birth year - they suggest reversing it, so that 1963 would become 3691. Or else choose a less obvious connection, such as a relative's birth year or the year of an historical event.
Another way of making the numbers seem less random is to treat the four digits as a day and a month, so if today was particularly memorable, your number might be 0208.
Other people prefer to use shapes and patterns, so that might mean sequences using the same numbers twice, such as 1010 or 1001 or 1100. Or a more extreme version of this is to use numbers which make a pattern on the cashpoint keypad, so that the sequence 1358 makes the shape of the letter Y.
A more straightforward technique used is to pick numbers that are already lodged in someone's memory, such as an old car registration plate or an old phone number.
There are even more elaborate schemes, such as using words which rhyme with numbers, such as "door" for four and "sticks" for six, and then constructing some type of phrase that won't be forgotten.
If this goes wrong you'll end up babbling meaningless phrases in the queue for the cash machine. Hold on, it was "glue sticks pine door". No, let me do that again, it's "pine door glue sticks". Or is it my daughter's birthday?
Let me have one more go. Its the letter X on my mobile, reversed and then added to my birthday. I'm sure there's something wrong with this card.
Professor Furnham also suggests that motivation plays an important part in successfully memorising a number. And when the new-style chip and Pin cards arrive, it will mean that we'll have to use a Pin number every time we use the card. If you're in a restaurant and you're not leaving until you've paid, that's going to be a pretty good motive for remembering.

an anorak – a boring person, very interested in its hobby
an avalanche - lawina
To babble - bełkotać
a cashpoint – bankomat
Fallible – omylny, zawodny
To infiltrate – infiltrować
to lodge – utkwić
mounting – nasilający się
Mundane – przyziemny
retrieval cues – wskazówki by coś odzyskać
A roll-out – wprowadzenie na rynek
A tailspin - when something starts to fail and gets out of control
to tap in – wystukiwać


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