According to the constructivist model of the psyche, also known as Theory of Cognitive Development , proposed by the Swiss Jean Piaget, there are two fundamental concepts for the acquisition of knowledge in man, which are those of assimilation and accommodation .
- By assimilation is understood the integration of new information that is possible to acquire through experience, that is, the incorporation into the psyche of external elements product of the circumstances of life and environment in which it develops. It becomes evident when human beings respond to novel or unknown events by going to previous experiences as a reference, in order to find a meaning.
- The accommodation , however, requires altering the existing schemes following information or newly acquired experience because they are not useful to address the new or unfamiliar situation, allowing a new layer to accumulate experience.
Examples of assimilation
- A child sees a zebra for the first time, and names it erroneously as a horse, an animal more familiar to its order of experiences.
- When we begin to learn a new language, we use as a reference the one we already manage to “translate” everything into already conceived mental schemes.
- An infant receives a bottle for the first time and immediately tries to suck it, because the experience with the maternal nipple has prepared him to relate to the object (with almost everything, in reality) in that way.
- A child plays with rubber balls, until he gets a rag. Similar forms of the ball will allow you to recognize it as such, despite discovering later their differences.
- Darwinian grip: babies hold everything that comes close to their hands, because it is an evolutionary reflex incorporated into the very early psyche.
- The child learns the concept of a dog from illustrations of large dogs or perhaps with a large dog at home. Then, he is confronted with a small dog and mistakenly thinks that it is another animal, like a cat.
- The psychological test of the Rorschach, consisting of showing the patient a series of ink spots, goes to already assimilated perspectives as an exploratory form of the patient’s psyche: “what do you see here?”.
- When the Spanish conquerors arrived in America, they described in their chronicles the New World based on the patterns already incorporated into their culture. That prevented them from seeing reality as it was, because they expected it to be like theirs.
- A young person of eleven years has an idea of ??structured family (father and mother), that is in check before the divorce of its parents, which puts the idea to a crisis, because it does not fit in its previous concepts.
- A person with low self-esteem can interpret, based on his precepts of himself, a congratulation for his work performance as a form of pity or aggression.
Examples of accommodation
- The same child who contemplates the zebra for the first time, he will see that it is another animal, and the little one learns to distinguish it from horses, incorporating a new learning.
- When we have learned a new language already, their mental structures are of common management and we do not need to “translate” the thought into a previous language, but we can elaborate the thought directly in the new one.
- The same infant with the bottle learns, eventually, to hold it in order to suck it, which should not be done with the mother’s womb, incorporating a difference to similar objects.
- The same child with the rag ball tries to throw it away and realizes that it does not react in the same way as the rubber ones. His concept of ball is extended to accommodate the new distinction between similar objects.
- Despite the Darwinian grip, the baby will grow up and learn to discriminate which things to hold and which do not.
- The same child who has learned the idea of ??a dog as something big and confronts the small dog, will learn to be corrected to accommodate the new possibility of a dog within the larger category and distinguish it from the category of cats.
- A scientific discovery often starts from ideas that are assimilated and accepted as true, but it can also oblige scientists to reorganize what they have taken for granted and to rethink contents previously learned in the face of the discovery.
- Openness to foreign cultures depends on the accommodation of diversity in broader, more democratic and more plural world outlines, all of which poses a challenge to easy and preconceived ethnocentric structures.
- The same eleven-year-old divorced parent will, over time, learn to accommodate more complex family ideas that will allow him to maintain a bond with his parents even though they are not together at that time.
- With psychotherapy and inner work, the person with low self-esteem will learn to discern the congratulations of pity and will have to internally adjust the social reality of their environment in a different way.