Integration of external factors into a system's structure.
J.W. SUTHERLAND considers assimilation as the "complementary pole" of accomodation, which is merely a temporary or more or less lasting and reversible adaptation of the system to external variations.
The concept is somewhat difficult to conciliate with autopoiesis and organizational closure. Any system can assimilate only that which is compatible with its basic nature. Besides, assimilation seems possible only when the system still possess a high degree of redundancy (see ageing, order from noise).
Assimilation within the individual system, is not the mechanism, or at least the main mechanism, of evolution. This last comment commands however two caveats:
- The acquisition of new habits may well predispose in either a positive or negative way, the individuals of some species to the transmission of dormant or new traits.
- In the human species, mental assimilation of newly acquired concepts, percepts and symbolic associations seems to be directly transmissible through communication, something that KORZYBSKI called totalization through time-binding (1950b).