It is known as a heuristic set of techniques or methods to solve a problem. The word heuristic is of Greek origin εὑρίσκειν which means “find, invent.”

Heuristics is seen as the art of inventing by human beings, with the intention of procuring strategies, methods, criteria that allow solving problems through creativity, divergent or lateral thinking.

Also, it is affirmed that the heuristic is based on the individual’s own experience, and that of others to find the most viable solution to the problem.

For example, heuristics can be seen as a theory that stimulates the thinking of the individual in charge of analyzing all the materials collected during an investigation.

In this sense, it can be affirmed that it is related to decision-making in order to solve a problem, without ensuring that the option taken is the most suitable.

However, heuristics as a scientific discipline, and in its broadest sense can be applied to any science in order to develop means, principles, rules or strategies to help find the most effective and efficient solution to the problem that the individual analyzes .

There are several heuristic procedures that are divided into:

  • Heuristic principles, are those that establish suggestions to find the ideal solution to the problem.
  • Heuristic rules, are those that indicate the means to solve the problem.
  • Heuristic strategies are those that allow you to organize the compiled materials or resources that contribute to the search for the solution of the problem.

As such, the term heuristic can be used as a noun and adjective. As a noun, it refers to the science or art of discovery, considered as a discipline that has the character of being investigated.

However, in the case of being used as an adjective, it indicates the principles, rules and strategies to find the solution to the problem.

Heuristics was a term used by Albert Einstein in the publication on the photoelectric effect, in the article entitled, translated into Spanish, “On a heuristic point of view concerning the production and transformation of light”, whose publication awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1921.

Heuristic method

It is the set of methods and techniques that are used in order to find and solve a problem in those cases that it is difficult to find an optimal or satisfactory solution.

For this reason, in the scientific disciplines the heuristic method is usually used in order to achieve the best result when faced with a specific problem.

The heuristic exists from ancient Greece, however, this term was popularized by the mathematician George Pólya, in his book “How to solve it”, in which heuristic method is explained to his mathematics students, and to all those who would like to learn from the discipline , citing four examples:

  • If you can’t understand a problem, draw an outline.
  • If you do not find the solution, do as if you already had it and see what you can deduce from it (reasoning in reverse).
  • If the problem is abstract, try examining a specific example.
  • Try to address a more general problem first and review.

For his part, the philosopher and mathematician Lakato, established that heuristics is a set of methods or rules that can be positive or negative, which indicate which are the ideal actions that can generate solutions to the problem.

In his work as a scientific research program, Lakato indicated that every program contemplates a structure that can serve as a guide in a positive or negative way.

In relation to the above, the positive heuristic is the one that establishes the guidelines of how to develop a research program.

In contrast, the negative heuristic of a program indicates what cannot be changed or modified, known as the central nucleus.

For example, in computer science heuristics consists of finding or building algorithms with good speed to be executed such as computer games or programs that detect whether an email is spam or not.