School of Communication and Digital Content


Master of Arts in Communication (MA)


Cecil Kramer

Primary Subject Area

Speech Communication; Language, Rhetoric and Composition; Language, General; Psychology, General


canon, memory, mnemonic, public speaking, rhetorical theory, speech


Communication | Linguistics | Psychology | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


People often imagine at some point in their existence what it would be like to have a photographic memory. However, this mental aptitude is a misnomer, and extremely rare in humankind. What we possess from our Creator is a photographic mind. Our memory recall is based on the recognition of visual pictures that appear in our mind. The early communication theorists illustrated this recognition and described it in the fourth canon of rhetoric. Because of the advancements in information technology, memory no longer holds the significance it once did. Numerous academic texts refer to memory as the lost art of rhetoric and this is substantiated by the little attention memory receives in communication studies. Yet, modern day audiences often agree, public speeches are potentially more impressive and captivating when an extemporaneous speaker relies less on the written word and more on memory. Technological gadgetry has decreased the need for memory recall and increased memory insecurities. This study revisits memory as a significant rhetorical topic and tests a mnemonic technique that, if implemented, could increase recall and enhance rhetorical skills admired by the foundational orators. Using quantitative assessment, this study measures the impact of a pictographic coding system on student memorization of an assigned text at a large university in Virginia.