Cognitive Function: Ne vs Ni

Cognitive Function: Ne vs Ni

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This is a discussion on Cognitive Function: Ne vs Ni within the Articles forums, part of the Announcements category; So I got really frustrated that there is no good article about Ni vs. Ne. I think to understand either ...

  1. #1

    Cognitive Function: Ne vs Ni

    So I got really frustrated that there is no good article about Ni vs. Ne. I think to understand either of these functions, one must first recognize what intuition is and that both of these functions simply have a different process by which they intuit information. Indeed all functions are this way, but Ne/Ni are probably the two most misunderstood functions out of the 8. Please leave any comments, criticisms, or suggestions as I fully recognize that I could be very wrong with much of this. However, I do believe I am right, and I think these are good descriptions. If this is indeed a good description of both functions, mods feel free to sticky. Special thanks to @Ace Face for proofreading and checking for correctness for me throughout this process. Without any further ado, enjoy!

    The problem with the cognitive function descriptors that leads to a lot of confusion between the different functions is that one function will be described with traits that the other function possesses, and the other function will have those traits left out. For example, Fi is a value-based moral compass where Fe is an objective judgment of the morals external to the self. Somehow, it seems that many people get the impression that Fe is somehow less moralistic than Fi. I see the same confusion between Ne and Ni.

    The truth is that both are abstract perceiving functions that are all about making connections between abstract ideas. They are both pattern-recognizing and they both deal in symbols and true meaning. The key to understanding both functions is to understand the methods by which they go about doing these things. Both are very different in these methods, and that is where their differences are. This is not something that is easy to explain to someone who does not understand the differences between the two functions in just a few sentences, so this is going to be a long post.


    Ah yes, Ne. The best of the intuitive functions! Okay maybe not, but I like it a lot. The truth is that Ne is a really incredible function that is very powerful when used correctly. How Ne intuits ideas is objective. That is to say that it sees symbols, ideas, and patterns in the object at hand rather than the subject (Ni is subjective), so the Ne user sees an objective symbol. For the purposes of this post, please think of an object as anything that can be perceived, such as an object, situation, story, etc. That is not to say that Ne is always correct in its observations. The contrary can also be true. The reason behind this is that Ne will see all possible symbols and ideas for a specific object. However, the Ne user is not always conscious of all of these possibilities. What ends up happening to eliminate these possibilities is that the judging function Ne is working with at any given moment will assist Ne in eliminating certain possibilities. For example, with myself (Ne-Ti), if I saw a car parked, I could easily eliminate the possibility that it has been retrofitted with a rocket to launch it into space since there would be no visible rocket on it, and cars aren’t made that way (but it would be really cool!). That reasoning is that of Ti. If you would like a more colloquial example, ask an ENTP what it’s like when they really like a girl/guy or ask an ISFJ what it’s like when they are really worried about someone they love. Ne without a judging function is extremely irrational, and even with a judging function, that judging function needs to be well developed in order for the user to come to the correct conclusion about all of the possible ideas.

    To summarize this particular point, Ne is an explosion of ideas that sees every possibility, given a specific object. Honing in on one idea is the job of whatever judging function that is working in tandem with Ne. An appropriate visual representation would be that of a supernova. What starts as a star explodes into all of its properties removed from the object itself and completely deconstructed. Ne does a similar thing. It completely deconstructs an object according to the ideas, symbols, systems, what have you associated with that object.

    One thing that is heard often about Ne is that it is all about making connections. That is indeed true, but Ne needs to have a correct base to jump off of in order to make the correct connections. It is my belief that Ne on its own can make connections based on all of the possibilities it intuits, but those connections will have little relevance to the outside world. The resulting structure would look more like a giant ball of tangled Christmas lights a la Christmas Vacation rather than a structured and organized web. Knowing this, a well-developed judging function is crucial to Ne making the correct connections required for being a well-developed individual. So yes, Ne does make a ton of connections, but Ne without any other function does not do this well. Ni doesn’t either, but that’s for a different reason.


    Again, as stated above, introverted intuition makes connections, sees symbols, etc. However, Ni is subjective rather than objective. Remember that we are thinking of objective and subjective in the sense that an objective function is all about the object at hand and the subjective function is all about the subject at hand. Given that, Ni without any other functions cannot intuit anything as it perceives based on past data that was gathered by the user. It must be presented with a goal, and it must have data that already exists to work. Where Ne can simply see through an object to its systems and symbols, Ni literally recreates them based on information that is known. In this way, Ni very much studies the subject at hand much like a student would study a subject for school. When studying, the professor or teacher will choose a textbook (or it is chosen for that teacher/professor by the “powers that be”), not all of the information in the textbook is relevant to the subject at hand. In that way, the student will not read through the entire book since the course may simply cover certain chapters. Ni is much the same way, and the Ni user’s past experiences and learned material (facts, feelings, etc.) can be thought of as the textbook in this situation. Ni will skim through the information in a very subconscious manner, ignoring what is irrelevant and including what is relevant. Eventually, much like a student towards the end of the course, what is to be perceived becomes more and more clear until, finally, what is being intuited is simply seen as a whole.

    To use the astronomy example that was used to describe Ne, Ni is much like a nebula. A nebula, if you don’t already know, is a cloud of particulate and other forms of matter in space that slowly forms into a star system. Over time, what looks like an amorphous blob begins to collapse in on itself until a star is formed and possibly planets as well. These solar systems that are formed are there for the long term. Ni is much the same way. The systems and models that Ni forms are often very much long-term models and systems that will stand the test of time and hold up well under scrutiny. This is why Ni is often described as the long-term system building function. The more relevant information an Ni user possesses, the stronger the system that is being built. The less information an Ni user possesses, the weaker the system that is being built or the system may simply never coalesce.

    To summarize Ni, where Ne is an explosion of ideas from one thing, Ni is where one idea coalesces from many ideas.


    Ne is not a long-term system builder. This is a true statement. In fact, I believe there are only 4 types that are long-term system builders that use Ne. Those are ENTPs, INTPs, ENFPs, and INFPs. And to use the term “build” is somewhat a misnomer. Often an Ne/Ji user will stumble upon a long-term system or simply have an idea once the Ne/Ji has gathered enough information. In many ways, the long-term systems that Ne/Ji users might form can be superior to that of an Ni user, but most of the time they will not. The breadth of knowledge that an Ne user will gather brings new perspective to the systems being built, and it may present an angle that Ni would not have seen as relevant. However, this is somewhat rare. However, in terms of systems that already exist, Ne will almost always see what Ni does not.

    Ni does not see the symbols and connections in ideas and objects external to the self. This is also a true statement. At least it is in terms of directly seeing symbols and connections between objects as they are directly perceived external to the self. Since Ni pulls information that is known to the user away in order to form symbols and systems, it does not perceive an object directly. It takes what is known about the object to form the symbols about that object. In many ways this is reinventing the wheel, so it cannot directly see the symbols in something external to the self. Research (other forms of perception, Je, or actual research) must be done about that object so that Ni can see the symbol.

    Ni takes a long time. This is false. At least in most situations it is. Depending on the complexity of the system being intuited, Ni may instantly form a system or find something’s true meaning quickly, or it may take a long time. This is variable depending on how many moving pieces there are to Ni’s goal.

    Ni is not specific. Ni is as specific as it needs to be. If information is not relevant to the system being formed, Ni ignores it. In this way, Ni users may be very general in the systems they form or they may be very specific. It really depends on Ni’s goal.
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  2. #2

    This was actually pretty good :D Once I read it through again!

    In this way, Ni very much studies the subject at hand much like a student would study a subject for school. When studying, the professor or teacher will choose a textbook (or it is chosen for that teacher/professor by the “powers that be”), not all of the information in the textbook is relevant to the subject at hand. In that way, the student will not read through the entire book since the course may simply cover certain chapters. Ni is much the same way, and the Ni user’s past experiences and learned material (facts, feelings, etc.) can be thought of as the textbook in this situation. Ni will skim through the information in a very subconscious manner, ignoring what is irrelevant and including what is relevant.
    Tee hee what was I saying earlier? o.0

    Really like your use of metaphors when describing the functions :)

  3. #3

    I'm sad to say I don't think I'll ever really understand Ni.

    Good description though.
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  4. #4

    I'm quite fond of Ne myself :P That said, I found it a very good read that highlights many of the differences between the two functions while citing examples on just how each function works. Considering my limited understanding of Ni, this provided some enlightenment (or something) on it.
    MegaTuxRacer, DreamGirl and gracemontez thanked this post.

  5. #5

    I like this comparison. I've seen myself doing a bit of the Ni without realizing that's what I've been doing! It's taken quite sometime to harness my Ne and I had just attributed that to being 35 rather than 25 in that regard, but i guess maybe its much like how an Ni processes cognitively. I find myself wanting to break things down and then putting it back together again in a more organized fashion than I took it apart. Kind of like taking apart a broken appliance and then putting it back together again exactly, but it looks and runs better than it did before. I've always prided myself and surprised others at my ability to take what seems to be a bunch of random pieces of crap and create a beautifully finished result. The older I get the better at this I become. Now it seems like instead of random pieces of crap, the pieces are from the subject I previously broke down and just need to put back together again...better.

    I remember when I was younger I would think cognitively in top-down processing of elimination which helped me to hone in on something specific but now that I'm more mature I can pull from more than just experience to make decisions (this explains why I made really great decisions in my youth if I was just drawing from my VAST experience to live my life...yeah right. Lol.). Now, I dont feel as though I have to do everything myself and can pull from many areas to help with making decisions. For instance, having a judging friend to assist with brainstorming if I get indecisive or overwhelmed at the possibilities of a subject is something I had to learn. Bottom-up processing developed into a stronger resource for me to pull from as well. The older I've become it seems the more flexible my mind is without going way out of the box or not having enough plasticity.

    I feel lucky to recognize my strengths and accept my weaknesses so that I can make my life more simple and help my loved ones. Its taken time but i finally learned to love my abstract way of thinking. I wouldnt give it up for the world. My favorite part is when i call it waaayyy before an event happens or give someone advice on how a scenario could potentially end and family/friends think i'm clairvoyant or something. I'm not perfect and still wrong on occasion. I can't predict the future but the older i get the less i am wrong. Hope this makes sense even if it's just to one person :). Thanks for reading

  6. #6

    good article man.

    of course there is a lot "blending" between the two in people, but aside from that, your Ni description really allowed me to pinpoint what it is that either allows me to excel in my classes (or anything) or to struggle. it's like you gave me the key in words to make that "amorphous blob" into a more tangible expression.

  7. #7

    First time poster... let me know ifI am way off the mark here.

    Ne - "What can I learn from this?" If Ne sees all possibilities and symbols.... then,
    Judging Function(s) - Decides what information is pertinent or necessary to take away and learn from this...

    Result - You have added a solid piece of new information or knowledge to fill in any gaps or further support your long term system. The new information reveals the new possibilities it opens up.

    Ni– “What do I know about this?” Ni compares and contrasts with previously learned knowledge and experiences .

    JudgingFunction(s) - identify similarities and differences with previous information and experience… how it fits in with what we already know.

    Result-You have a sketch drawn from more information than what was presented. The sketch is not as clear as the information Ne gleaned, but it is much broader.

    These processes happen in the subconscious, which make the results intuition, as they seemingly appear from nowhere.

    Ne, being externally focused, shows you what possibilities could happen in the external world.
    “I saw this coming.”

    Ni, being focused inwardly, gives you a deeper understanding.
    “I knew it.”

    I look forward to what everyone has to say about this.

    Last edited by Weeds32; 02-01-2012 at 04:43 PM.
    Keno, ENTPreneur, VioletIris and 54 others thanked this post.

  8. #8

    An analogy we like to use around my group of RL friends...

    If N were superpowers that represented how the mind goes from point A to point B, Ne would be super speed and Ni would be teleportation. Ne is clearly faster than Ni, and yet Ni often gets there first. Ne can move through patterns at blazing speeds narrowing down possibilities until it gets where it needs to go. Ni percolates until it is ready to have an aha moment, and then it just does.

    If Ne and Ni were having a race from the United States to an address in Japan, Ne would be like the Flash, running in the general direction toward Japan, using rapid succession of trial and error until it found the address in what would seem like the blink of an eye... only to find Ni already there. When Ne asks who it got there, Ni has no answer other than it simply did. Meanwhile, Ne can give a detailed account of its course, recounting how it ran a few thousand circles around Ni before the race started. Ni was in one place unmoving as it summoned up the power to make the shift, and then it was suddenly in the right place with little or no recollection of the distance in between.

    I would frequently make my ENTP buddy insane with my inability to explain how I was consistently coming to answers before he could. It made no sense to him because it was so clear that his thinking speed was about ten times mine (I'd wager more than that actually). But, while he was busy with his explosion of possibilities that erupted from any one source, I was scanning the entirety for the one answer.

  9. #9

    I really like this description - it's much more comprehensible than other cognitive function descriptions I've read!

    Hmm, I think my stubborn Ni may explain why I hate guessing, and have almost no ability to guess. I just can't find myself pulling random guesses out of thin air to shoot at people - I have to have enough information to actually synthesize and draw a conclusion from.

    For example, when I was given a Christmas present and the giver told me I had three guesses. For a long time I was just staring and flipping little packing around in my hands without being able to guess anything, and it was just torture. Until I felt a small metal piece at one end and a sort of card-boardy square thing wrapped around the other end, while the middle was soft. Then it just instantly came to me like time and space collided in my head, 'cause I recognized how the contents were packaged - socks!

    But in that scenario, Ne could've seen the little packing, felt it a bit, and blurted out some long-shot guesses based on the little it had to go on, yes?

    I feel like I've reached a whole new understanding. Thanks so much for the great Ne/Ni description!
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  10. #10

    Great job. Don't hate on Ni so much, though. I'm a Giver; it's the only cool preference my kind has.
    Pterodactyl, Spades, MegaTuxRacer and 2 others thanked this post.

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