CH1 L24: On intelligence: game and imitation – part III

  1. In the 22nd post, we saw how a kid went through the phases of assimilation, disequilibrium then accommodation to create the concept of the donkey [1]. Piaget [2] stated that the balanced growth of assimilation and accommodation results in functioning intelligence. If assimilation outgrows accommodation, kids will tend to play games; otherwise, they will rather imitate. Through this post, we’re gonna study some examples of their imbalanced development. [3]
  2. If our ancestors hadn’t had the ability to assimilate, we wouldn’t have had any inventions. We’d be still running away from predators, trying to fit into tree hollows or hide in caves, instead of building weapons or houses. However, we managed to change the world around us, assimilating things to our ideas.
  3. Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and see how they invented shoes. Imagine that one day you killed a big bear and in order to show off your achievement [4], most probably for climbing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs [5], you’d put on its skin. Aside from feeling respect, it also warmed up your body which is a good feeling in cold or windy weather. Your brain would create the concept of cover [6,7]. Then you’d realize that you could cover up the rest of your body to protect it from the cold weather [8].
  4. Aside from the concept of cover, another pre-requisite concept is “tying”. You must’ve learned that you could tie things together, otherwise, you couldn’t wear shoes.
  5. Though wearing the shoes could protect your feet, it could have some drawbacks. It could be slippery on smooth or wet surfaces, or if you tied it with rough materials, then it would hurt your feet, especially if you wore it for a long time [8]. This situation means that your invention needed to be modified (accommodation).
  6. The main point of this story is: though assimilation has enabled us to change our environment, the result isn’t satisfactory if it isn’t accommodated to our needs. In other words, if we develop some ideas without thinking about its practical outcome, what we do is nothing but a game. What Piaget means by “game” is an activity that a child does without considering the outcome.
  7. As we discussed in the last post, we realized that any game has some kinds of benefits for us; either we develop some skills and boost our confidence or they lower our stress and make us happy [9]. This is an individual assessment of the game. However, if the outcome of a game isn’t aligned with the society, it means that we’re not accommodating to the social expectations (rules, norms, or values), so doing it is not only pointless but also in some situations anti-social.
  8. Take having sex for pleasure, or the gay sex as an example, it’s not reproductive, so from society’s point of view, it’s just a waste of energy. Then the early societies came up with some rules to restrict it; later they used religion to define them as sins. Michel Foucault [10] has pointed it out in the history of sexuality [11]. He also argued that what the religious institutions had categorized as sins have been now labeled by psychologists (the scientific institution) as aberration, perversion or sickness to control sexuality.
  9. While a kid is growing, they’re told that certain things are done in certain ways, meaning there’re some rules and restrictions. For example, a kid is corrected by their parents if they play with their food instead of eating it. So, if the kid is given a lot of freedom, then they would see the world as a big playground; otherwise, they learn just to follow the rules and regulations, imitating others.
  10. The downside of overgrown accommodation is losing the ability to independently think and decide. I’ve had many students who were good at solving math problems, but when you asked them to analyze a formula, they couldn’t because they’d just learned how to follow the instructions. For example, when I asked them how to find the area of a rectangle is, they all knew that it’s length multiplied by width. But when I asked them why they multiplied the length by the width; they simply said because it’s the formula; or because it’s in the book (it sounds very religious, doesn’t it?). In each class, one student or two could explain the reason [12].
  11. The followers also wait for decisions to be tailored for them which comes with two kickbacks: first of all, the solutions might not fit them well; secondly, they’re not able to alter it to be used in a different situation.
  12. The drawback of the assimilative characteristic is having unrealistic solutions which might be destructive. When it comes to relationships, an assimilative individual or society hears others opinions or criticisms but they reframe or interpret it to their own advantage.
  13. In the Greek mythology, Procrustes [13] (Prokroustes) or “the stretcher [who hammers out the metal]”, also known as Prokoptas or Damastes “subduer”, was a rogue smith and bandit from Attica who physically attacked people by stretching them or cutting off their legs, so as to force them to fit the size of an iron bed. The English adjective procrustean describes the attitude which fits everything (it’s mostly used for an idea) into a (rigid) framework despite its differences.

Exercise 24:

  1. Think about ideologies and why they are doomed to fail.


[1] Link to the 22nd post

[2]  Link

[3]  Link to the origin of intelligence in children

[4] I believe that the first discoveries or inventions happened by accident or through trial and error.

[5] You can find more information about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the 15th post.

[6] Link to the post on concepts

[7] I do think that shoes

[8] Link to an interesting article about the evidence of the first worn shoes.

[9] Link to the previous post

[10] Link

[11] Link

[12] The biggest problem that I’ve noticed is those students who didn’t develop thinking rationally or analyzing, feel tortured if they’re asked to reason.

[13] Link


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