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Assimilation & Accommodation ...

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 Assimilation and Accommodation

Assimilation and Accommodation are the two complementary processes of Adaptation described by Piaget, through which awareness of the outside world is internalised. Although one may predominate at any one moment, they are inseparable and exist in a dialectical relationship.  The terms are also used to describe forms of knowledge in Kolb’s elaboration of the cycle of experiential learning.

In Assimilation, what is perceived in the outside world is incorporated into the internal world (note that I am not using Piagetian terminology), without changing the structure of that internal world, but potentially at the cost of "squeezing" the external perceptions to fit — hence pigeon-holing and stereotyping. 

 If you are familiar with databases, you can think of it this way: your mind has its database already built, with its fields and categories already defined. If it comes across new information which fits into those fields, it can assimilate it without any trouble.

 

 In Accommodation, the internal world has to accommodate itself to the evidence with which it is confronted and thus adapt to it, which can be a more difficult and painful process.  In the database analogy, it is like what happens when you try to put in information which does not fit the pre-existent fields and categories. You have to develop new ones to accommodate the new information.

 

In reality, both are going on at the same time, so that—just as the mower blade cuts the grass, the grass gradually blunts the blade—although most of the time we are assimilating familiar material in the world around us, nevertheless, our minds are also having to adjust to accommodate it. 

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