Each individual congures or envisions from within their own memories, thoughts and ideas of their overall understanding of the word.
Next step is to sort through the collection of thoughts to determine a 'best' description of what the word (question) means to them.
Knowledge, memories, ideas, (aka data), gets weighed, judged, evaluated sifted, sorted, kept or discarded through the virtual process of thought. The goal is to decide upon one, "best," most descriptive word to answer the question, all within a five second time span.
Tick, tick, tick. Time to think. 5 seconds. Tick tock, tick tock. The speed of human thought is faster than can be measured with current technology. On the other hand, five seconds to the human brain can seem excruciatingly short when placed under the pressure of a stop watch.
The Star Trek android "Data" once said "1.5 nano-seconds is a lifetime to a computer." Data's data is confined to the limits of programs designed by humans who are confined to physical limitations.
5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 ...Decision Time
Brains think constantly, non-stop whether we are aware or not. Left foot, right foot, breathe, chew, pick up pencil, answer phone, remember groceries, call Mom...constantly thinking so fast it is impossible to realize the process as it happens.
However, ask someone a pointed question with 5 seconds to answer, and everything in the cranium seems to grind to a halt. Suddenly put on the spot the mind scrambles through a Plinko-maze filter to sort the sheer volume of data suddenly sent to the front line.
- the thorn prick you got as a kid
- the tattoo on favorite uncle's shoulder
- rose-colored curtains at a favorite restaurant
- Rose petals to walk upon
- Name of the Rose movie
- something inappropriate
- ...everything coming at you all at once.
The skill of recall might improve with practice. Try using Word-A-Day calendars as more than exercises in pronunciation or definition. Investigate further.