Let's start from scratch in thinking about what memory
is for, and consequently, how it works. Suppose that memory and
conceptualization work in the service of perception and action. In
this case, conceptualization is the encoding of patterns of possible
physical interaction with a three-dimensional world. These patterns
are constrained by the structure of the environment, the structure of
our bodies, and memory. Thus, how we perceive and conceive of the
environment is determined by the types of bodies we have. Such a
memory would not have associations. Instead, how concepts become
related (and what it means to be related) is determined by how
separate patterns of actions can be combined given the constraints
of our bodies. I call this combination “mesh.” To avoid
hallucination, conceptualization would normally be driven by the
environment, and patterns of action from memory would play a
supporting, but automatic, role. A significant human skill is learning
to suppress the overriding contribution of the environment to
conceptualization, thereby allowing memory to guide conceptualization.
The effort used in suppressing input from the environment pays off by
allowing prediction, recollective memory, and language comprehension.
I review theoretical work in cognitive science and empirical work in
memory and language comprehension that suggest that it may be possible
to investigate connections between topics as disparate as infantile
amnesia and mental-model theory.