Faces and pictures: understanding age differences in two types of graphical authentications

James Nicholson*, Lynne Coventry, Pam Briggs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Recall of knowledge-based authentication codes such as passwords and PINs can be problematic, particularly for older adults given the known memory decline associated with ageing. We explored the extent to which recognition-based Graphical Authentication Systems were effective alternatives to PINs and passwords in a study in which users were asked to commit several different codes to memory and recall them at different time periods. Populations of younger and older adults were given face-based and picture-based authentication codes to remember over the course of three weeks. Results show a pronounced age effect, with younger participants outperforming older participants. Older participants fared better with the face-based system over the picture-based system while younger participants exhibited the opposite effect. A significant performance drop was observed for older participants over time, as additional codes were introduced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)958-966
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
Issue number10
Early online date17 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Graphical authenticatoin systems
  • Graphical passwords
  • Authentication
  • Older adults


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