Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development
Piaget’s Basic Tendencies in Thinking
Piaget identified that children actively construct their own cognitive worlds. To make sense of the world, they organize their experiences and adapt their thinking to include new information. Organization is an ongoing process of arranging information and experience into mental systems or categories. Piaget termed these mental concepts as schemas. A schema is a mental concept that is useful in organizing and interpreting information.
As an individual’s thinking processes become more organized and new schemes develop, behaviour also becomes better suited to the environment.
Piaget found that children adapt their schemas through two processes- assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation means fitting new information into existing schemas or what we already know. For example, if the child knows about the horse, then when the first time he/she sees a camel, he/she may call it a “horse”.
On the other hand, accommodation is altering existing schemas or creating new ones in response to new information. Children demonstrate accommodation when they add the scheme for recognizing camels to their other systems for identifying animals.
During this process, children experience disequilibrium in their attempt to understand the world. Gradually, they reach in a balanced state of thought known as equilibrium.
This shift in thought from one state into another is termed as equilibration.