What are Heuristics?

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What are Heuristics?

Heuristics refer to methods or techniques employed by people to come up with a quick solution to particular problem or a speedy answer to a complex question. These techniques are usually based on experience rather than hard science and/or research. In the quest for a solution, learning, or discovery, heuristics are used to make quick answers or judgments regarding a particular problem, situation, or concern.

Since heuristics are often based on experience, they are also commonly referred to as the “rule of thumbs” which involve a not so accurate approach to a particular problem but offers an acceptable and often reliable solution. It’s like it represents some sort of short cut or easier way to come up with an answer or solution to a given problem. In this way, people don’t have to think or research on a certain topic for long periods of time. Instead, common ground rules are employed to come up with a certain answer.

A typical example of a heuristic involves the “trial and error” approach in solving a problem or puzzle. In this case, instead of trying to find the actual answer or solution by means of extensive thinking, studying, and research, one may choose to solve the problem immediately by trying different methods. If the first method tried failed to come up with the answer, then the second method is chosen, or the next one, until such time that an acceptable answer is reached. Using this technique obviously saves a lot of time for the problem-solver. Another example of a heuristic involves the process of elimination involving a litany of possible answers to a particular question. In this example, answers that are deemed irrelevant or incorrect are eliminated leaving all the answers with the highest probabilities of being right. By doing this elimination technique, a person will eventually come up with only one answer to the problem or question.


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