Introducing the Basics
What are assimilation and accommodation?
Assimilation and accommodation are the two ways that children gain new knowledge. In assimilation, the new is fitted into the old; in accommodation, the old is adapted to the new. This is the way that schemas develop. Accomodation means that a schema will become modified by new information. For example, an infant is handed a rattle that is shaped differently than any previously encountered rattles. Because of the different shape, the infant has to grasp it in a different way. Thus the schema of grasping the rattle has just accommodated to the new action.
Assimilation is the complement of accommodation and refers to the way new information is adapted to previously existing schemas. For example, when presented with the new rattle, the infant tries to grasp it and shake it. This reflects an attempt to assimilate the new action with the pre-existing rattle schema. Throughout development, both processes occur simultaneously.