The Three Little Pigs Take the SOI

Posted by Kathleen Torrey | October 1, 2015

by Josh Felise


Today, we’ll run through three modes of thinking, or types of intelligence, aided by our three favorite porcum.

The three types of intelligence are:

  • figural thinking
  • symbolic thinking
  • semantic thinking

The SOI classifies these as contents.


The First Little Pig

The First Little Pig is a figural learner. He’s good at dealing with concrete information he can see, hear, and touch directly.

He builds his house out of straw. Straw has a distinct texture and is bendable. You can whistle into it to make a sound. You can weave it into a myriad of forms.

It requires dexterity and vision to build your house of straw, so let’s give him credit where credit is due. This guy could be successful in a number of hands-on careers like mechanics, plumbing, photography, and cooking, as well as architecture, engineering, and clothing design.

Does the wolf in school blow down the figural learner’s house?

Although most children begin as figural learners, schools quickly neglect this important intelligence type. Children who remain predominantly figural often have trouble learning to read, a skill requiring symbolic intelligence (see below). The SOI developed LOCAN, a glyphic language, which helps figural thinking children learn to read. These children may be bright, but in schools they are often labeled learning-disabled.

So figural learners often get their houses knocked down.

Ironically, without figural thinking our houses would all fall down or never be built at all. The natural hands-on pursuits of figural thinkers should be encouraged, and supplemented with LOCAN, and other exercises that build the other two types of intelligence. Instead of lying in beds of straw, it allows figural thinking children to build.

By the way, the Montessori method is built around the knowledge that most young learners are figural thinkers. Montessori and SOI are wonderfully complementary teaching theories!


The Second Little Pig

The Second Little Pig is a symbolic learner. She’s good with information in notational form. She thrives in the abstract realm of symbols that have little to no apparent relation to what they represent (like a 7, which has no pictural suggestion of the concept).

She builds her house out of wood. Whereas straw is good to bend and build, wood is much better to write on. In the symbolic thinker’s house, she will preserve and transmit information by carving symbols. She won’t waste a corner turning A’s and B’s into logical syllogisms, numbers into tax reports, music into notes on a scale.

She will do well in games like Scrabble and on crossword puzzles. She will thrive as an accountant, programmer, music transcriber, electrical engineer, and proofreader.

Does her house last through school? Does the wolf blow it down?

Because early education is concerned with mastering alphabetic and numerical notations, young symbolic thinkers do well in school. Many programs teach reading with a phonetics approach, which is most suited to them, so their gifts shine early. In high school and college, they may struggle if lacking semantic intelligence, too.

So symbolic learners have strong houses early that may or may not get knocked down as they get into higher grades.

Early on, symbolic thinkers are well-adjusted, easy students. A lack in figural or semantic thinking may not reveal itself until later on. Intellectual exercises should be practiced to ensure this doesn’t happen.


The Third Little Pig

The Third Little Pig is a semantic learner, and boy can he talk a good game. He lives with his concepts and ideas.

He builds his house out of brick. Because, simply, brick is the best. Most fire-resistant, heat-protective, attractive, and sturdy. He has high comprehension. He sees the connections and the deeper meaning the rest of us mortals miss.

He is the novelist, poet, lawyer, publicist, speaker, politician, psychiatrist, and teacher. Think the nutty professor.

What is his house like in school? Can it withstand the wolf?

Funny thing, the semantic thinker’s house is often in his head, and on paper, as he learns best through sight words. His teacher’s love him for it. Semantic content forms the base for school learning. Those who juggle invisible and written ideas have the strongest structures to match our current public teaching models.

The semantic thinker has a fantastic house for school, of course. Unfortunately, it may crumble in the adult world of practical affairs.

Semantic students are the most likely to succumb to burnout. Without figural knowledge, they can’t really build the perfectly imagined house, or fix their computer that crashes in the middle of writing their novels. Without symbolic knowledge, they’ll have trouble following a multi-step project, meeting their deadlines, or handling their finances.

Therefore, even though semantic learners often do the best in school, and provide us with rich insights into life’s meaning, it’s important for them to develop some figural and symbolic intelligence early on.


The strongest brick is mixed with straw, and a house gets cold unless heated with wood. All types of intelligence are valuable, and all the better when mixed in an individual. When schools fail to recognize this or teach to all types, it builds a disequilibrium among children and adults.

The Structure of Intellect tests children and adults for their types of cognitive abilities. It also offers exercises to improve weak areas, and maintain and strengthen those that are average and better.



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