Initially proposed by Jean Piaget, the term accommodation refers to part of the adaptation process. The process of accommodation involves altering one's existing schemas, or ideas, as a result of new information or new experiences. New schemas may also be developed during this process.
For example, a young child may have an existing schema for dogs. Dogs have four legs, so the child may automatically believe that all animals with four legs are dogs. When the child learns that cats also have four legs, she will undergo a process of accommodation in which her existing schema for dogs will change and she will also develop a new schema for cats.
Accommodation does not just take place in children; adults also experience this as well. When experiences introduce new information or information that conflicts with existing schemas, you must accomodate this new learning in order to ensure that what's inside your head conforms to what's outside in the real world.
For example, imagine a young boy raised in a home that presents a stereotyped schema about another social group. When the young man moves away to college, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by people from this group. Through experience and real interactions with members of this group, he realizes that his existing knowledge is completely wrong. This leads to a dramatic change, or accommodation, in his beliefs about members of this social group.
More Psychology Definitions: The Psychology Dictionary
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