Heuristic Details

(Greek heuriskein and Modern Latin heuristicus and from German heuristisch; "to invent, to discover")

Explanations of the term heuristic

The term heuristic (not "heuristics"), is a term for a particular technique of directing attention towards discovery and is appropriately used as a heuristic, two or more of these are heuristics.

Heuristic is also defined as the art and science of discovery. The word comes from the same Greek root as "Eureka!". It means "to find" or "pertaining to finding". You might also define it as the study of searching.

As an adjective, heuristic refers to "pertaining to or aimed at discovery or steering one's attention in a fruitful direction, as opposed to making an evaluation or final judgement." For example, it's a heuristic move to spend a couple of hours tinkering with some unfamiliar computer source code before making an estimate about how much time it will take to add a certain new feature.

Heuristic results are arrived at by intelligent guesswork rather than by following some pre-established formula. The term is defined further as:

  1. Describing an approach to learning by trying without necessarily having an organized hypothesis or way of proving that the results proved or disproved the hypothesis; that is, "seat-of-the-pants" or "trial-by-error" learning.
  2. Pertaining to the use of any general knowledge gained by experience, sometimes expressed as "using a rule-of-thumb"; however, heuristic knowledge can be applied to complex as well as simple everyday problems. Chess players are said to use a heuristic approach when they are determining their moves.

Details about eureka and discoveries. The eureka, heuristic unit of words.