A post by Coriolis in the "Ask an INTJ" thread made me think about some possible explanation about how Ni works. The following is my take on how Ni works.
Needless to say that this is but my view regarding this and could be way off target/wrong. Feel free to chime in with suggestions/questions/alternate explanations.
I'll begin with the Quote I initially started to reply to.
As you pointed out, I too have noticed that Ni is not something "magical" but is actually the result of processing done in the unconscious surfacing to the conscious mind. I believe this is one of the fundamental differences between Ni and Ne. Ni is not about objects but about the interconnection between objects. Or to be more accurate, an INTJ would Abstract away objects altogether and concentrate on their functions/how they interact with the system. NE, imho seems to concentrate more about the objects than some unifying underlying quality which can be filtered from these objects.
Ni would look at pots/cups/toys made from clay and abstract away the objects, concentrating on "clay" and its properties. Let’s call this the “clayness” . When the INTJ encounters another object made out of clay in the future..(eg; clay oven) the Ni would unconsciously use the “clayness” quality of all things made out of clay to predict how/and what this clay oven will do/interact with other things around it.
As others have mentioned...Ni synthesizes information to arrive at ONE answer for a problem(real life or imaginary ). I hasten to add that Ni sometimes gives more than one answer (eg: say..maybe 5). An INTJ would then run Te over these answers and eliminate the ones that fail, resulting in one answer OR an answer that is slightly modified/fine tuned from the Initial version spewn out by Ni.
The external world is not really “real” to the INTJ in the sense that it is but one “possible version/reality” and is subject to change all the time. Change is probably one of the very few constants thus the INTJ comes to distrust concrete “definitions” due to their oxymoronic nature( How does one define something with absolute certainty when everything in this world/universe is in a constant state of flux?).I have noticed this to be an issue that causes misunderstandings/miscommunication when dealing with other types, especially INTP’s. I hate to find concrete definitions for things because internally I find the notion very troubling, whereas the INTP with whom I am conversing with might find my reluctance a form of dismissal.
Ni: An internal framework of connections between qualities/attributes?
INTJ’s tend to accumulate these “connections” (eg : “clayness”) over the years into an intricate internal framework. However this framework is Not a framework of connections between objects, but imho is more of a connections between qualities/attributes. Imagine a 3D net, with a perfect sphere on each of the intersections. Also let us assume that there are an infinite number of intersections. ( such a net with infinite reflecting spheres is known as the “Indras net" in Hindu/Buddhist philosophy btw). Each sphere reflects all other spheres on the framework. This is analogous to a framework of connections.
One sphere could be “clayness” , another could be “wetness”. The image of the “wetness” sphere reflected on the “clayness” sphere would be a connection between “wetness + clayness”. Thus an INTJ when encountering mud for the first time, could make accurate predictions about its attributes/what it might do almost instantaneously (which he then passes through the Te filter to eliminate incorrect/impractical answers). This I believe is what Ni does.
Let us look at a real world example. Imagine an INTJ looking at some objects made out of clay, and some other objects/states of water.
The INTJ starts extracting what he/she thinks to be the essential qualities of the aforementioned stuff and filing them away in its internal network of connections.
In the following image, the "reflections" of other spheres on a sphere is the "influences" other qualities represented by those spheres have on the quality represented by the sphere we are considering.
Each sphere is reflected on every other sphere. What I mean to imply by this image is that qualities/attributes all have some “effect” on everything else in the system. Sometimes the effect is very strong, sometimes microscopically small.
The main advantage of this form of organization imho is that it allows the Ni to “switch its Pov at will”. For example it could look at a problem from the viewpoint if sphere 1. However if it decides that the problem would be better solved from a different view, it could switch to sphere 2 instantaneously without a need to re-compute all the connections again. (Edited to add: or the INTJ could also look at the same sphere from another angle..noting a different set of reflections on the surface, thus pointing at a different set of influences)The framework of connections (spheres in this example), is built over a lifetime, and cannot be re-built from scratch at will.
There is a system of “weights” given to the connections between the spheres as well. In other words, these “weighted connections” allows the INTJ to quickly asses the relative influences each sphere will have on a problem at hand and eliminate almost all but about 4 or 5 factors(spheres, and their interconnection’s) which might influence the current problem they are working on.
However as the INTJ learns new things/figures out connections between things they keep on adding these to the framework. This results in spheres being added, existing spheres getting modified, or the ‘weights” of the connections getting updated.
Te will then go over the answers thrown up by Ni to quickly eliminate the ones which are wrong. The resulting answer will then be the one selected.
I have to add that sometimes the resulting answer will be a slightly modified version of the initial one given by the Ni. While going over the answers Te would find some errors, which will then be fed into the internal framework. These changes will probably result in some minor tweaks to the framework…for example the weights given to the connections might be changed a bit…or some factor could be added to the milieu. Ni now pops a more “correct” answer which is filtered by Te again.
In my opinion Te sees to check for “errors”. It does not “prove” that the answer is correct. It only shows that the answer is “not wrong” .
What was meant to be a short post grew into a super lengthy one