Abstract How does semantic memory function to provide recall of individual words as well as for episodic recollections? The Genevan view for the role of schemas in semantic memory is contrasted with mainstream cognitive theories to account for situations ranging from word and prose recall to recall of episodic information. The contribution of schemas to the coding and strength of memories is discussed in the context of Schank’s (1982) ideas on knowledge structures, McGeoch’s (1942) research on learning, and Tulving’s (1983) work on concepts. The mechanisms by which the memory system individuates memories are also considered through reviews of similarity, identity, and activity models. The importance of motor schemas, as providing the foundation for the development of conceptual thinking, is emphasized within Genevan-derived activity models that posit the generation of analogous abstract representations for physical motions and observed interactions. Mandler’s (1988, 1992) work on the emergence of abstract thinking in infants, prior to language acquisition, is discussed in support of the operation of activity models in memory retrieval.