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1. (of a method of teaching) allowing pupils to learn things for themselves
a. Maths Science Philosophy using or obtained by exploration of possibilities rather than by following set rules
b. Computing denoting a rule of thumb for solving a problem without the exhaustive application of an algorithm
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) Heuristic methods of solving problems are usually contrasted to formal methods of solution, which are based on exact mathematical models. Heuristic methods, or heuristics, require less time than do methods involving an exhaustive, undirected search of all possible alternatives. Solutions obtained by heuristic methods are generally not optimal; they merely belong to the set of permissible solutions. The employment of heuristic methods does not always lead to the achievement of the goal set. In psychological and cybernetic literature, the term “heuristic” is sometimes applied to any method aimed at reducing the checking of alternatives or to inductive methods of problem solving.

(2) With respect to the organization of the process of productive creative thought, the term “heuristic” is sometimes applied to the mechanisms innate in man by means of which procedures for the solution of problems are engendered. Examples are mechanisms used to establish relations between elements of a problem situation, to eliminate unpromising approaches, and to form refutations with counterexamples. Such mechanisms, which in their aggregate define the metatheory of the solution of problems involving creative thought, are universal in character and independent of the specific problem being solved.

(3) Heuristic programming is a special method of programming for computers. In ordinary programming the programmer expresses a prepared mathematical method of solution in a form comprehensible to the computer. In heuristic programming, however, he attempts to formalize the intuitively understood method of problem solving that he believes a human being would use in solving problems similar to the one at hand. Like heuristic methods, heuristic programs do not necessarily ensure that the goal set will be attained or that the result will be optimal.

(4) The branch of the science of thought that studies heuristic mechanisms or procedures is known as heuristic. Its main subject is creative activity (seeCREATIVITY), and its principal problems involve models for decision-making in nonstandard problem situations, for seeking that which is new to a person or society, and for structuring descriptions of the external world through classifications like the periodic table of the elements or C. Linnaeus’ system for plants and animals. The science of heuristic draws on psychology, the theory of artificial intelligence, structural linguistics, and information theory.

(5) The term “heuristic” is sometimes applied, particularly in the Soviet literature, to a special method of teaching (Socratic method) or of group solution of problems. Heuristic teaching, in this sense, consists in asking the students leading questions and providing the students with suggestive examples. This method of instruction dates back to Socrates. In the group method of solving difficult problems known as brainstorming, creative thought is stimulated through freewheeling discussion. When a group member suggests an idea for a solution, the other members supply leading questions, examples, and counterexamples.


Poiya, D. Matematika i pravdopodobnye rassuzhdeniia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1975 (Translated from English.)
Pospelov, D. A., and V. N. Pushkin. Myshlenie i avtomaty. Moscow, 1972.
Pushkin, V. N. Evristika—nauka o tvorcheskom myshlenii. Moscow, 1967.
Upravlenie, informatsiia, intellekt (collection of articles). Moscow, 1976.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A rule of thumb, simplification, or educated guess that reduces or limits the search for solutions in domains that are difficult and poorly understood. Unlike algorithms, heuristics do not guarantee optimal, or even feasible, solutions and are often used with no theoretical guarantee.


This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (foldoc.org)


A method of problem solving using exploration and trial and error methods. Heuristic program design provides a framework for solving a problem in contrast with a fixed set of rules (algorithmic) that cannot vary.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
I also learned heuristically the shapes (not powers) of lenses that produced negative coma.
Psillos follows Hesse in tying the heuristic role of models to the exploration of the space of neutral analogy and argues that a heuristically successful model may come to be believed as literally true, a typically robust realist claim he supports with a careful discussion of nineteenth-century optics.
While accepting a "Romantic encounter with uncertainty" that engenders, in the borrowed words of Jerome McGann, "contradiction, conflict, and problematic alternatives" (16), Macovski repositions such conflict as a "rhetoric of dialogue" (171) with positive ontological and heuristic implications: Ontologically, dialogic rhetoric "instantiates" (a favorite and much overused term) the Romantic self as a social and transtemporal entity constructed of the interaction of multiple internal and external voices; heuristically, dialogic rhetoric embodies, for Macovski, the "investigatory motivation" (17), the open-ended search for meaning, and the textual allegorizing of interpretation that characterize Romantic discourse.
Heuristically, it gives weighting to both the slope and intercept parameters, but its primary justification is simply good performance against the criteria of repeatability and correlation to [t.sub.sr].
Confronting these complications seems far more heuristically valuable than absorbing the moral exempla of conversion narratives, served up generously elsewhere in the volume, in which rational ideas inevitably melt the prejudices of people who are "just" ignorant.
This factor was determined heuristically (14) and was found almost independent of [L/R.sub.d].
For Boire this constitutes 'the humanistic basis of Callaghan's work, one well contained in Terence's famous epigram: "I am human and nothing human is alien to me." Heuristically, the Callaghan text aims to bring the critical reader to this point of courageous accommodation, this point of visionary realism'.
Also worth mentioning are the distinct characteristics of the intrapreneurial strategic processes; in SMEs, these processes develop heuristically and incrementally, and the intrapreneur often acts as the trigger.
Numerous tables and references document the available evidence, and statistical results are summarized heuristically rather than presented in their entirety.
The contrived (but heuristically valuable) case of Anscombe (1973) aside, it would be very useful for the field to consider the effects of violations of assumptions under more realistic circumstances.
For purposes of analyzing the church with some measure of scientific certainty, we will heuristically adopt developments within and around the South African Council of Churches (SACC) as an example and symbol of the experiences of the church in South Africa during this period of socio-political transition.