Coming back into consciousness, the first thing that I recognized were faces, and not only faces, but the emotions, sincerity, and trustworthiness of those faces.
Faces are incredibly informative - a single glance reveals much about a person’s identity, gender, ethnicity, emotion, and truthfulness. Babies are instinctively drawn to look at faces, and by four months of age are already processing faces as distinct objects.
Different parts of the brain process perception of faces than process our perception of other objects, although some research suggests that the fusiform face area of the human brain can process other perceptions as well.
Unlike birds, chairs, or cars, which we identify mostly by category, we perceive every face as unique. In addition, once we have seen a face, we can recognize it under many conditions, whether it’s obscured in shadow, displaying some extreme facial expression, or even a caricature.
Coming back into consciousness, I was aware of faces before I was even aware of my own situation.