Accommodation in Psychology: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:01 Definition of Accommodation
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Accommodation is a term developed by Jean Piaget to describe the process in which we modify existing cognitive schemas in order to include new information. Learn more about accommodation from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Accommodation

Suppose that you are a young child who lives in a small rural town. Every day as you go to school, you watch as the buses pass. During summer break, you visit your aunt who lives in a major city. She takes you on a trip to the local railroad station so that you can watch the trains come and go.

You point to a train and ask your aunt where the 'buses' are going. She tells you that what you are pointing at is a train. She further explains that trains are driven on railroad tracks, while buses are driven on the road. Trains also move much faster than buses.

You use this information to modify your understanding of what a bus is and spend the day learning more about trains. This is an example of accommodation.

In order for us to have a clear understanding of the process of accommodation, we must first define the concept of schema. A schema is an organized pattern of knowledge. We organize information into schemas in order to increase our understanding of the world. For example, your schema of a bus may include a large motor vehicle that has four large wheels, has several rows of seats, and is used for traveling long distances.

Accommodation is a term developed by psychologist Jean Piaget to describe what occurs when new information or experiences cause you to modify your existing schemas. Rather than make the new information fit into an existing schema, you change the schema in order to accommodate the new information.

For example, you called a train a 'bus' when you saw it for the first time. Once you were informed that what you were looking at was a train and the differences between a train and a bus, you modified your schema of a bus to include that buses are driven on dirt roads and you developed a new schema for the concept of a train.

Examples of accommodation include:

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