Piaget believed that development occurs in stages via equilibration, in which a child seeks balance (equilibrium) between both what they encounter in their environments and what cognitive processes and structures they bring to the encounter, as well as among the cognitive capabilities themselves (Sternberg, p.448). Sternberg explains that in some situations, the child’s existing schemas are adequate for confronting and adapting to the challenges of the environment; the child is thus in a state of equilibrium (p.448).
However, at other times, the child is presented with information that does not fit with the child’s existing schemas, so cognitive disequilibrium arises; that is, the imbalance occurs when the child’s existing schemas are inadequate for new challenges the child encounters (Sternberg, p.449). In this type of situation the child attempts to restore equilibrium through assimilation- incorporating the new information into the child’s existing schemas (Sternberg, p.449). In contrast if the child is not able to assimilate the new information s/he will go through a process of