The definition of assimilation in psychology is the cognitive process of crafting new information and ideas into pre-existing perceptions and understanding. Essentially, when you receive new information, you process it based on information that already exists in your mind.
When you first learn about an apple, you find out that it is a fruit, it’s sweet, and it keeps those nasty doctors away, because you already knew what fruit and doctors were (the big scary white-coated folks with the pointy needles).
Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat?” Well, in psychology, it’s more like “you are what you think.”
That’s because the way we process new information and ideas can have a profound impact on how we see ourselves and the world around us. This process is called assimilation.
Assimilation is the cognitive process of crafting new information and ideas into pre-existing perceptions and understanding. Essentially, when you receive new information, you process it based on information that already exists in your mind.
For example, when you first learn about an apple, you find out that it is a fruit, it’s sweet, and it keeps those nasty doctors away, because you already knew what fruit and doctors were (the big scary white-coated folks with the pointy needles).
The Role of Schemas
At the heart of assimilation is something called schemas. Schemas are the mental structures that we use to organize and interpret information. They are the framework that we use to make sense of the world around us.
When we encounter new information, we try to fit it into our existing schemas. This can sometimes result in us distorting or changing the new information to fit what we already know.
For example, if you have a schema for dogs, you might assume that all dogs are friendly and love to be petted. But if you encounter a dog that is aggressive or doesn’t like to be touched, you might have to adjust your schema to fit this new information.
The Benefits and Limitations of Assimilation
Assimilation can be a powerful tool for learning and making sense of the world around us. It allows us to build on what we already know and make connections between different pieces of information.
However, assimilation also has its limitations. If we rely too heavily on our existing schemas, we might miss out on new information or fail to see things from a different perspective.
For example, if you have a schema for a certain political party, you might automatically reject any information that goes against your beliefs, even if it’s true.
Assimilation and Accommodation
While assimilation is an important process for making sense of new information, it’s not the only process at work. Another important process is accommodation, which involves changing our existing schemas to fit new information.
For example, if you encounter a fruit that you’ve never seen before, you might need to create a new schema to fit this new information. This is called accommodation. Over time, as you encounter more new fruits, you might need to adjust your schemas to fit this new information.
Assimilation in Childhood Development
Assimilation and accommodation play an important role in childhood development. Children start out with very basic schemas for the world around them, and as they grow and learn, they develop more complex schemas.
For example, a child might have a very simple schema for dogs when they are young (all dogs are friendly and love to be petted). As they encounter more dogs and learn more about them, their schema for dogs becomes more complex (some dogs are friendly, some are not, some like to be petted, some do not).
Understanding the role of assimilation and accommodation in childhood development can help parents and educators create environments that foster learning and growth. By providing children with new experiences and opportunities to learn, we can help them develop more complex schemas and make sense of the world around them.
Assimilation is a fundamental process in psychology that helps us make sense of the world around us. By understanding how we process new information and the role of schemas in our thinking, we can learn to be more open-minded and better able to adapt to new situations.