Definition: In Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, accommodation refers to the process by which people alter their existing schemas or create new schemas as a result of new learning. This is part of the adaptation process. Old schemas may be changed and, in some cases, entirely new schemas may be formed.
Examples of Accommodation
For example, imagine that a young child has a schema representing a horse. To her, a horse is a large, four-legged animal, which a long tail. The first time she sees a cow, she calls it a horse, since it fits in with her current schema. She then learns that this is a different animal entirely. In order to accommodate this new information, she must update her existing schema for horses and create a new category for cows.
While examples of accommodation often center on children, this process also takes place in adults as well. Whenever you acquire new information, it must either be assimilated (or incorporated into an existing schema) or accommodated in some way. When information is consistent with a current schema, it is usually assimilated. When something is new or challenges your existing beliefs, it is necessary to accommodate the information by either changing your schema or forming a new category for what you have learned.