I Lost My Knife
I have a folding knife that is pretty sharp that I used to use a lot. I can't find it. I haven't seen it in months now. It's here in my apartment. I never take it outside. It is probably someplace within arms reach as I type this but I can't locate it. The thing is that when I DO locate it I'll recognize it right away.
I don't have a particularly strong capacity for visualization but that doesn't seem to impair my capacity to recognize things. That capacity somehow isn't linked to anything like an image. After all, an image is a thing seen from a particular perspective and the image presented changes a lot according to the perspective. And yet if I catch a glimpse of even a small part of the knife from whatever angle I'll go "AHA!! There it is!"
Recognizing faces seems to be a special capacity within the capacity to recognize things in general. I can recognize faces even when they are wearing a face mask. My capacity to recognize faces somewhat outpaces my memory for names. It might just be that memory is a slower acting system. It happens sometimes that I'll recognize a face and smile and greet but no name springs to my lips. And then a block later the name Candace pops up in my mind.
I recently learned that some people are super recognizers. They can recognize faces even if given just a short glimpse. And the short glimpse lets them recognize the face if they see the face again from another angle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_recogniser The are in high demand among police and intelligence agencies. I've worked a bit with face recognition systems used to clock people in and out of work. Never worked very well. Even my own modest recognition capacity far outperforms that system.
I would place recognition as a capacity that underlies other cognitive capacities. I've written that we process raw sensory data into meaningful experience of a world. This assumes that we recognize things.
Just as there are people who are super recognizers there are people who are bad at recognizing faces. This is caused by damage to a region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus. People who suffer the impairment seem to do OK at recognizing objects or patterns. This suggests a kind of layered structure to cognition that reflects our evolutionary history. Before we can recognize THISface we have to recognize that we are looking at A face We share that capacity with many other mammals. I'm not sure if a frog has the capacity to even recognize people as people (as opposed to just recognizing a large living threat).
But frogs are as highly evolved as people are. They may not have a fusiform gyrus so they can't recognize faces but they can snatch flies from the air with their tongue while sitting on a lily pad. I'd bet that there are specialized structures in their brains that makes that possible for them.