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Computer Science[edit]

Heuristic algorithms are found everywhere in computer science. The article ought to have a short section on heuristics in computer science. Tedtoal (talk) 01:10, 17 December 2013 (UTC)

Link to Model(physical)[edit]

In the philosophy section, the word "model" pointed to physical modelling; i´ve changed to the Disambiguation page for "Model" since what´s refered in here applies to pretty much all Models, from theoretical to physical and beyond. (talk) 02:47, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

If I recall my university lectures on Data structures & algorithms correctly, "Heuristic" is deried from the greek word "Heurskein" (sp?), meaning "to discover". "Eureka" is a mispronounciation of "Heureska", meaning "I have discovered". Does anyone have a source which can confirm the mispronounciation of this, so we can change it? Guinness 14:16, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

There is this definition of the word, though I don't know what to do with it. J. Finkelstein 06:59, 27 March 2006 (UTC)
There is no great errors here. "Heureka" is the perfect tense of "Heurisko" ("I find" and "I've found"). "Heuriskein" is the infinitive ("to find"). And I think this talk of mispronounciation is not correct. I'd only suggest changing the greek word in parenthesis from "heurisko" to "heureka". (εὕρηκα). --Duducoutinho 17:25, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

This entry is enormously useful to me. Thank you to all those who have contributed to it. In many places, it is a work of art and science fruitfully joined. I am most grateful. Gardner Campbell 29 April 2006

I found it less useful, and, in a particular aspect confusing, unhelpful, and unsatisfactory. My familiarity with English leads me to suppose that words ending in '..ic' are usually adjectives, whereas 'heuristic' here seems to be defined as a noun. This suggests that the implied noun has been elided ('a heuristic something'), and what the 'something' is is left to the imagination. Perhaps those who habitually use the word 'heuristic' know what this thing is, but the rest of us do not. I am inclined to guess that 'heuristic' is being used as an abbreviated form of 'heuristic technique'. But I was looking for a definition, not an invitation to guess. So I am left wondering. Looking elsewhere, I find that my Concise Oxford Dictionary give an example usage :- 'heuristic method of education' - one where the pupil is left to find things out for himself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:32, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

You are right that most English words that end in -ic are adjectives. Some exceptions: rhetoric, arithmetic, logic. "Heuristic" was coined by analogy to those. In the last few decades, some people have been treating it by analogy to physics, mathematics, etc. See my long note under "the scientific method" for more details. --Ben Kovitz (talk) 23:04, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Lexical note relevant?[edit]

Lexical note: The name of the topic is heuristic (not "heuristics"); a particular technique of directing your attention toward discovery is a heuristic, two or more of these are heuristics, and the adjective for "pertaining to how something is discovered" is heuristic.

This seems odd; wasn't there something about Wikipedia not being a dictionary? Is there something interesting about this bit of grammatical trivia? (If this is meant to correct some "common mistake", it probably shouldn't be included; we don't have notes on the pages of subjects whose names are hard to spell indicating that this is so.)

It certainly is odd. For one thing, it's POV; for another, it is contradicted in SOED, Wiktionary, and a zillion other respectable sources. I have replaced it (citing the authority of SOED), as part of the general copyediting I have just given the whole article. I do think it's proper to give such information: but let it be accurate! – Noetica 05:50, 14 October 2006 (UTC)


The reference to Plato and his Republic implies that Plato did not like his Republic, and was only using it as a model to show that a perfectly just society is not desirable. This is incorrect. He thought it was implausible, but he definitely thought it was desirable also. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Shippa52 (talkcontribs) 13:02, 16 September 2007 (UTC)

Authors don't agree on the subject. See Karl L. Popper for this interpretation and Leo Strauss / Allan Bloom for the interpretation recorded in the article. Anyway, it's a good exemple of what heuristic could be in philosophy, regardless of personal opinion.Brett Mercier (talk) 06:35, 14 December 2008 (UTC)

The term utopia was not coined by plato, as the article implies; it was first used by thomas morus. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Enriquefbarros (talkcontribs) 10:08, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Look to the unknown[edit]

On 06:47, 29 February 2008, user added 'Look to the unknown" to the list from Polya's book. Do you have a page reference? Colfer2 (talk) 20:51, 4 March 2008 (UTC)

I don't think it's legit. I just deleted it. Polya does have an idea about clearly identifying what is the data, what is the unknown, and what is the given relation between them. It would be nice to add that, if it could be worded well. It might be too confusing as an introductory example, though. --Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:34, 22 January 2009 (UTC)

the scientific method[edit]

I was thinking heuristics comes in when the scientific method is not applicable? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Carlw4514 (talkcontribs) 18:37, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

People seldom agree on what they mean by "scientific method", but any method of discovery is by definition is a heuristic. --Ben Kovitz (talk) 16:37, 22 January 2009 (UTC)
Certainly there are things that prove to be true but can't necessarily be proven scientifically. In medicine, for example, a certain series of steps to treat a disease might be prove effective, yet as to why it works, science may only be able to speculate. Thus I expected the article to say Heuristics are a separate, more pragmatic approach to method. To say "any method of discovery is by definition is a heuristic" makes sense so I am not sure where I got this notion. Carlw4514 (talk) 18:27, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I think the example of medicine to illustrate the distinction you have in mind is excellent—maybe a good way to make the point in the article. Here's what I think has happened. The word "heuristic" was traditionally used to mean methods of discovery or problem-solving (from the Greek word for "find", famous as "Eureka!"). The word "art" was contrasted with "science", to refer to know-how that that doesn't necessarily come with a theoretical explanation for why the methods work (medicine in ancient Greece being a great example of this). Over time, "art" has come to be used more and more to mean "the fine arts", as opposed to, say, medicine or engineering or ship-building. (A body of know-how that includes theory was called "an art and science".) In the last few decades, people have reached for the word "heuristic" to fill the gap, and the gap has turned out to be large and important.
The result is, now, as encyclopedia-writers, we are in the awkward position of documenting a loose, "mistaken" usage that has gained a lot of momentum as a technical term so that the new usage can no longer reasonably be rejected as mistaken. We now have some people using "heuristic" (as a noun) to mean a logically invalid method of making a decision, which is good enough for practical use, especially in situations of imperfect information (Gerd Gigerenzer is probably the most famous). We have some people using "heuristic" (as an adjective) to mean the kind of know-how that doesn't come with a theory or much justification beyond its long-standing use in practice (like medicine and ship-building in the 1400s). Those people often use "heuristic" (as a noun) to mean a "rule of thumb"—a rough-and-ready method of estimating something. And we still have people like George Pólya, the guy who made the word "heuristic" popular via his book How to Solve It, who say "heuristic" (as an adjective) to mean "pertaining to how something is discovered, or mainly useful for discovery" and "heuristic" (as a noun) analogously to "logic", to mean the study of problem-solving or discovery, like how to tell when you're getting close to an answer, how to reframe a problem to make it easier to solve, etc. I believe there is a body of literature about heuristic going back to the 1800s. Further adding to the confusion is the fact that an important element of heuristic, one that Pólya himself discusses in his writing, is how to make intelligent guesses: that is, how to jump to conclusions by invalid logic—but understood as a step in finding a provably correct answer. We have still other people using "heuristic" (as an adjective) to mean "a search method that does not find the best answer but is feasible to execute" (especially in computer science). This last combines both the "rough and practical" and "search" meanings.
I'd love to see someone take a crack at doing justice to this word whose usage is currently muddled between several subtly different meanings. I would explain all this in the article, but, as I haven't read it anywhere, that would be original research. Say, has anyone else seen some scholarly discussion of the modern split in the meaning of "heuristic"?
--Ben Kovitz (talk) 22:18, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Now I don't feel so bad that I was confused myself [g]. I can see you are quite absorbed by this topic! Um, a slight chance the source for my "notion" about the meaning came from a long-ago study of Claude Bernard. So a slight chance he could be quoted, but I no longer have a book or anything to consult. But I am no longer sure where I might have first run into this. Carlw4514 (talk) 18:36, 24 January 2009 (UTC)

Pmchaffie (talk) 18:52, 24 February 2016 (UTC)This is a wonderful article and discussion, very helpful in my work (history of science/mapping). thanks to all who contributed and participated in a lively discussion on the Talk page.


Just to verify, what is the most common way to pronounce "Heuristic?" The article apparently says "Hue-ristic," I've heard it said "You-ristic" and even "Oy-ristic." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:18, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

"Hue-ristic" is the only one I've ever come across, either in conversation or in reference books. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 18:48, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

I guess I'm not the only one who didn't know how to pronounce this crazy Greek word. Thank you for clarifying, Ben. (talk) 07:13, 9 March 2009 (UTC)

The shape of the accent at the beginning means that it is a rough breathing, which means that the 'h' is pronounced. Moving onto other things, I noticed that the 2nd sentence is basically unnecessary; it just repeats what was said in the first sentence. If no one objects, I think I'll just delete it... My 2 Cents' Worth (talk) 12:09, 20 May 2010 (UTC)


this is comment/request, not an attempt to add or insert:

I would like to see a more expert delving into the etymology

the greeks had a real purpose/specificity for the term
'rule of thumb' i feel to be grossly inadequate in order to understand the depth and power of the concept

'discovery' implies far more than 'find'. one might find their socks in a drawer, but when one discovers the resolution to what was previously a mystery, something of more import has come about than warming one's own feet, if i may put it so. The word comes so useful (but poorly known) to us, and some of its history must/should still cling to its meaning in order for the term to maintain its power, it is a complex not simple concept

i researched this word a long time ago, and it may be i did not do such a great job, for i have never studied ancient greek and at that time had not studied latin yet, and likely i have mythologized the meaning over the many years to suit my own purposes. It is a concept word, something about 'state of mind', not an object word, like 'dog' or some such. Someone better than me can do a better job of it, i think.

the term has something to do with the master/student relation, it has something to do with leading toward rather than leading to; the drawing out of education rather than the rote of memorization; the ability to foster learning rather than to teach. it has been a very useful concept to me for some time

and that, i am afraid, is as much as i think i might know

so sorry if this is a formatting mess

Indeseo (talk) 08:32, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

off topic[edit]

I removed the section tagged as off topic, as it had been tagged that way since May 09 and it did not add clarity to the article. It may be relevant to a critique section - someone may want to add it there. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:10, 14 January 2010 (UTC)

heuristic play[edit]

should heuristic play fit in this article or get its own article? heuristic play is very common among UK day care "nurseries" and Sure Start centres. I don't know what the search engine statistics are, but I'm pretty sure that people do search for the term "heuristic play". (talk) 15:00, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

If you can find a source or two, try starting a new section for it on Heuristic. After some text is up, it'll be clearer whether it should be in a separate article. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 10:24, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I need to add in my citations but can't seem to make it work - Mass Communication[edit]

The text is as follows... already in the article... and here I have dropped in four citations numbered in text and then in full below:

In the study of media effects, judgmental heuristics have been shown to play an active role in the simplifying of news and political communication. Use of these cues and other signals from elites allow average people the opportunity to achieve a modest level of rationality in reaching a decision. This can be accomplished without having to devote any significant measure of cognitive effort normally required to arrive at thoughtful and considered choices. (1) The limited capacity theory model (2) and other information processing models have been influential in the study of how people encode, store and retrieve political information. Most people maintain a minimum level of interest in public affairs, and therefore employ simplifying shortcuts to arrive at political judgments.(3) Common examples include referring to the complex military and intelligence activities by NATO forces in the Middle East simply as “the war on terror,” a reversal of a specific policy or position as a “flip-flop,” and the homogenization of any type of broad government assistance program as “socialism.” Risk assessment of new technologies offers another example of how ordinary citizens seek shortcuts to expediently arrive at judgments. Most people maintain a low level of interest in issues that are not center to their daily lives, such as developments in the various fields of science and technology. Media frames can produce powerful heuristics that can have significant impact on public opinion about a given new technology. Research has shown media frames that suggest high risk often lead to strong negative perceptions and possible rejection of a technology. (4) An example is the casting of genetically modified foods as “Frankenfoods” and using illustrations containing visual cues to Frankenstein’s monster.

Citations are as follows:

(1)Popkin, S. L. (1991). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
(2)  Lang, A. (2009).  The limited capacity model of motivated media message processing. In R. Nabi & M. B. Oliver (Eds), The Sage handbook of media processes and effects (pp. 193-204). Los Angeles: Sage.
(3) Mondak, J. (1994). Cognitive heuristics, heuristic processing, and efficiency in political decision making.  In M.X. Delli Carpini. L. Huddy, & R.Y. Shapiro (Eds.), Research in Micropolitics: New directions in political psychology (pp. 117-142). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
 (4) Brossard, D., Scheufele, D.A., Kim, E., and Lewenstein, B.V. (2009) “Religiosity as a perceptual filter: Examining processes of opinion formation about nanotechnology,” Public Understanding of Science 18 (5): 546-558.  — Preceding unsigned comment added by DaveWilcoxUW (talkcontribs) 07:03, 25 October 2011 (UTC) 


This articles describes the term heuristic as used in several different fields of science. As the exact meaning can differ significantly, each should probably have it's own article. —Ruud 11:34, 7 March 2012 (UTC)


Someone has re-instated the split tag without bothering to leave a comment on the talk page. I do not intend to spend my life trawling through the article history in the vain hope that an explanation has been given. If I understand the request correctly then it is without merit for the following reasons:

The content to split off is too small to make a viable article.
The content to be split off is unreferenced.
The content to be split off is not notable.
The content to be split off has numerous problems that need to be fixed before a split is made.

If I were to carry out the split as requested then the split article is liable to be deleted for the above reasons and my time would be wasted.

When I next do the monthly cleanup of split tags (on or after the 1st of the next month), I intend to remove the relevant material. Having removed the relevant material the reason for the split tag will disappear and hence I intend to remove the split tag.

If you do not wish me to do this then there are 4 options that I am aware of:

1) Do the split yourself (if you disagree with my reasons not to split)
2) Rectify the problems stated above (and then preferably carry out the split)
3) Put a comment on THIS talk page informing us of when you plan to rectify the problem and then rectify the problem in that time scale.
4) Put a comment on this talk page explaining what you really wanted.

Op47 (talk) 11:02, 9 March 2012 (UTC) Removed. I agree with the uselessness of the tag. What is the point of tags anyway? seriously. If there's an issue, talk about it and fix it. It seems like the whole use of tags is to make a point to other editors--but the readers, not wikipedia nerds like us, are the ones who are going to see it and be like, uh? The Sound and the Fury (talk) 02:51, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

Needs attention of expert?[edit]

The article is pretty poor, both in terms of structure and synthesis. The "mass communication" section is essentially just a special case of psychological heuristics, for example, and seems to have disproprionate coverage. And the range of ways the term is used within the entry is so broad ranging that the article as a whole seems to lack any underlying focus or organising principle. It's basically quite poor and badly needs some attention from an expert or an informed editor. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:47, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

Deleted PR[edit]

I deleted the pronunciation respelling (PR) of heuristic (roughly "hyoo-ris-tik") because I don't like PRs, for reasons I explained in the talk for Wikipedia:Pronunciation respelling key; and because the PR was in slashes, which is contrary to Wikipedia convention for PR; and the IPA convention that slashes are for true IPA, not PR. Also, anyone educated enough to study heuristics should be educated enough to read IPA, or learn it with minimal effort. Is my edit approved?--Solomonfromfinland (talk) 14:53, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

Mention different uses[edit]

Howdy. I find it confusing the way that this article deals with the way that the term heuristic is used across disciplines. Or perhaps even something that clarifies that the way the page is laid out is describing how it's used across disiplines. As a humble user, I would have expected a disambiguation page....

You could also try a short summery description of how it's used in various areas that is placed in the page description. (talk) 19:03, 23 May 2013 (UTC)

Categorical proposition[edit]

I think something should be said about how heuristics are not categorical propositions.Lbertolotti (talk) 19:09, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

I Didn't Find It.[edit]

Why no mention of the word "Eureka"? (talk) 20:37, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Would you care to elaborate? --Keithonearth (talk) 23:57, 26 August 2014 (UTC)