I don't know how to explain it, without phrasing it much like a computer copes with multi-processing, or a significantly greater understanding of cognitive science then I possess, and I'm a programmer at heart, not a neurologist. If I knew someone with that kind of knowledge, I would probably ask whether the brains ability to handle things in parallel is built into our physiology, or just a learned 'trick' like multitasking on a uniprocessor system. (Ok, everyone's asleep while my geeky brain drifts off, hehe.)
I refer to titbits of data as an "Atom", because it is the most fitting word. While not to be confused with the meaning of atoms as understood in chemistry or physics, so much that cutting chunks of data into still smaller scalaresque elements would serve little purpose. The word stimuli might be more appropriate but hey, I'm not an English teacher.
Input sources for these so called atoms of data, can be virtually anything; ranging from what's under ones nose, to past experiences, or established references. In thinking, my mind processes enormous amounts of data, proportionate of course, to the amount of data I may gather! Every atom is constantly evaluated, weighted in the context of it's value and studied from a probabilistic perspective.
Over the course of my life, I've learned to be quite adapt at the gathering of information, in any topic or subject that I choose to pursue suitably. More then a few times, I've astounded people by quickly gathering an input set, and coming to a conclusion based on that data, in fairly short order compared to most of my peers. The ability to search for information should never be overrated, and controlling access to information can be crucial to manipulating an enemies reaction, but denying it and permitting its dissemination. That of course being said, I believe strongly in the freedom of information Growing up next to a set of mouldy encyclopaedias and a dusty double volume of Funk & Wagnails dictionary, it wasn't very long after I learned how to read (well), that I would start learning how to gather and process resources of information efficiently. Libraries, technical manuals, even consulting more learned individuals than myself. Perhaps I should also be eternally grateful to Mage, for introducing me to a search engine that doesn't suck! After gaining a measure of internet access around 1996-1997, I had found little use for the web beyond answering the quest for intel on any given topic of interest. That being said, I never came to make positive use of the Internet until closer to 2000.
Once I have information, I process it thoroughly, both in context and at many instances, off the wall as well. As I said previously, everything is weighted (it is also mentally tagged), helping me gauge the importance of any given atom towards arriving at a workable conclusion. Based on what I know, I also apply ample consideration for the likely hood of any meaning that may be possible. In terms of what may be possible, or the so called sample space, is something often run together in my head, and computed there as well, rather then done straight using numbers. Should we say, my mind operates on a level where the most relevant atoms are not necessarily easy to express as a number, yet may be readily thought of as if it were. Earlier this week, I told a friend that between 0 and 1, my grasp of the possibilities for most things I think at, often has the capacity to go beyond what the number of digits an average persons calculator can express to the right of a decimal point. The depth of my thoughts can often be compared to a typical person taking twenty years cracking at it... lol. Ok, so I think a freaking lot.
In building away at what I know, in order to put it to some applicable use, my reasoning is fairly varied, an art form if you will. I combine what may be inferred with what one may wager, and fairly carefully gauge the potential follow ons. Using both what I know and an an increasing understanding of what I don't know, to arrive at the end of the line. One of my favourite jokes, goes something like this:
An astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician are on a train in Scotland. The astronomer looks out of the window, sees a black sheep standing in a field, and remarks, "How odd. Scottish sheep are black." "No, no, no!" says the physicist. "Only some Scottish sheep are black." The mathematician rolls his eyes at his companions' muddled thinking and says, "In Scotland, there is at least one sheep, at least one side of which looks black."You must always check your facts ^_^.
Most things I think about in depth, do not require very precise processing (someone I know, might call it a lack of rigour), only a disciplined and orderly analysis of atoms. Experience as a programmer as well as much time spent labouring over questions of "How does sth work", has thought me much of that. Organised thinking is a very valuable asset, to any reasonable individual.
It can never be said enough however, that the sources of atoms most also be evaluated as much as the atoms themselves (fellow coders might call this a form of mental taint checking). Sources are important, check and discriminate them! One can learn much from a study of historiography, if the words primary source and secondary source mean nothing, you should probably repeat part of school... and try not to sleep through it this time :-P (that or have your old history teacher fired). Many people who berate resources such as Wikipedia, often need to learn the value of checking multiple sources, and strongly taint checking the atoms that go through your brain.
When dealing with matters of intelligence6, it is even more important to consider the validity of ones sources, and it's meaning. Perhaps the best examples of this, would involve a game of poker or a peek at a handful of agencies, but hey, go learn it yourself. I am very objective of the information I process, as well as in that which I promulgate. Some of the more shadowy figures who follow my journal every now and then, will no doubt have comprehended that, if they themselves possess any understanding of intelligence analysis.
In the course of my life, I've found digging into solid sources as well as concise overviews of any subject matter, also to be a worth while pair. I have never allowed anyone or anything to influence my opinion, so much as I search for and study the factual data, and what may be proven through it; and despite the marbles that sometimes rattle too and fro, my mind does not settle lightly without good reason.
Earlier I noted that all of this stuff, occurs fairly simultaneously. At any given time, my brain normally follows about 2 1/2 to 3 trains of thought, and regularly the impacts of mental operations upon one atom, will affect dozens of other atoms, not always related ones either for that matter. (I love phrasing things like that :-P.) Being able to follow trains of logic and reason while gathering more data, and to do so concurrently is inherently a valuable skill to learn. Perhaps I owe this one, to having to often (ab)use my computers capabilities at multi-tasking whenever I'm around, and thus my mind had to adapt to take advantage of it.
Practical experience in a matter, as well as taking into account evaluations from others also plays a roll in things. One interesting example, SAS has placed me so many times into planning and leading missions, I often have the perspicacity to tell when something appears sound coming from a younger Element Leader, but is really a load of marlarky. Such usually becomes obvious under scrutiny. Ones experiences however, can not override all other considerations, after all, just because you've never seen a winged horse in the sky, does not rule out the possibility that such a creature could [have] exist[ed] somewhere in the universe.
Poor it all in a mythical brew, and you have an interesting if verbose summery, expressing parallel application of deductive and inductive reasoning, contextual evaluation, systematic thinking, respect for probability, taint checking, experience, and more then a few techniques for analysis that I care not to mention publically. Growing tired, perhaps it might just be more succinct to explain my mental processes as a form of a deep magic that describes my minds fundamental functioning. Some other people still work on the spaghetti theory.
Oh wells :-/