We humans have a few core abilities that give us an edge over animals. Our ability to see patterns is one of them, and grasping the abstract ones is where it gets tricky.
And it is this skill, this vision, that enables babies to learn a new language, or the subtle differences between sexes, and so on, is what we are interested in.
We see what the things around us have in common. Although it may seem trivial to see what makes a chair a chair, it is not. Is it just something you sit on? Hardly. Is it something with four legs that you sit on? How about 3 legs? What is a leg anyway?
So to understand what a chair is, we have to link together all the concepts of sitting, legs, gravity, and so on, and group them into a higher concept of a chair, which fits nicely into the concept of furniture, and so on. It's concepts all the way down.
Our ability to analyze is the critical element of intelligence. We can look at a situation that we are not familiar with, and filter everything out but the essential parts and then compare them with the patterns we know.
The best pattern-matching machine then compares the information stored in a tree-like structure, against the patterns we "observe". All our senses are fed through the pattern-matching machine, along with the rest of the inputs, and consciousness comes out the other end. We are our mind trying to experience the world and itself.