The Meaning of Heuristic: What It Is and How To Use It

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Today’s word of the day is heuristic. In this article, we will explore all of the different forms of heuristic reasoning and decision-making. By the end of this article, you will know the differences between the different types of heuristic decision-making and how to use them. 

What Does Heuristic Mean?

According to Investopedia, the term heuristic refers to a problem-solving and decision-making technique. In heuristic decision-making, a person uses practical methods like mental shortcuts, prototypes, trial and error, and relevant information to make a rational choice or find the optimal solution.

Heuristic has three syllables: heu-ris-tic. Because of the way heuristics work, using heuristics can make decisions that are prone to cognitive biases.

Types of Heuristic Methods

There are a few different types of heuristic techniques, per Science Direct. The following are a few examples of heuristics. 

The Representativeness Heuristic

First, there is the representativeness heuristic. This type of heuristic uses mental shortcuts to make decisions. These shortcuts are formed using past experiences that are similar to the current situation. 

For example, an interviewer might make better assumptions about a potential candidate for a job if they are well-coiffed versus if they are unkempt, even if their presentation is not important for the job. This type of heuristic involves psychological prototypes.

The Availability Heuristic

Second, we have the availability heuristic. This type of heuristic uses information that comes to our brains quickly when making a choice or a decision. Sometimes, this is also called the recency heuristic because it relies on recent information or experiences. 

For example, if some topic is all over the news, you might perceive it as the most important thing happening in the world. If someone participated in sports as a child and had a good experience, they might be more likely to think that participating in team sports is beneficial as a child versus someone who had a bad experience with team sports. 

The Anchor Heuristic

The last type of heuristic is the anchoring and adjustment heuristic. With this type of heuristic, the person making a decision starts with a target value known as the anchor and adjusts this value until a fair number is reached.

For example, if an item was originally priced at a certain amount, a person might think it was overpriced. However, if an item was the same price but advertised as being 50% off, a person might perceive the item as being a good deal.

Suppose someone asked you what the average temperature of a chimpanzee was. In that case, you might start with the human average and try to adjust your number from there because you are most familiar with the average human temperature versus the average temperature of another animal. 

What Is the Etymology of Heuristic?

According to Dictionary, the word heuristic is Latin and Greek in origin. This word entered the English language in the 19th century and originates from the Greek heuriskein and the Latin heuristicus.

How Can We Use Heuristic in a Sentence?

It is important to know how to use the word heuristic in a sentence. Below, you will find several examples of the word heuristic. 

Example #1

The teacher taught her students all about the heuristic approach to decision-making and when it is appropriate to use them.

Example #2

The philosophy student focused her thesis on the history and study of heuristic decision-making. 

Example #3

The economists used heuristics in their decision-making process to try and get into the average consumer’s mind. Then, they coupled this with their data to make the best business decisions.

Example #4

The jurors were sure to be wary of their heuristics and biases when deciding whether to send the man to prison for life.

What Are Translations of Heuristic?

People use heuristic decision-making all over the world, not just in countries that use the English language! I you plan on studying philosophy in another country or if you are discussing decision-making with someone who does not speak English, you can use this list of translations of the word heuristic from Nice Translator.

Can you think of a situation in which you would use the word heuristic when speaking to a person in another language? 

  • Catalan: heurístic
  • Slovak: heuristika
  • Portuguese (Portugal): heurística
  • Welsh: hewristig
  • Hebrew: הֵאוֹרִיסטִי
  • Icelandic: heuristic
  • Dutch: heuristisch
  • Romanian: euristic
  • Marathi: ह्युरिस्टिक
  • Hindi: अनुमानी
  • Arabic: ارشادي
  • Italian: euristico
  • Malayalam: ഹ്യൂറിസ്റ്റിക്
  • Korean: 휴리스틱
  • Indonesian: heuristis
  • Serbian: хеуристичан
  • Malay: Heuristik
  • Amharic: ጤንነት
  • Slovenian: hevristična
  • Polish: heurystyczny
  • Tamil: ஹூரிஸ்டிக்
  • Chinese (PRC): 启发式
  • Thai: เกี่ยวกับการแก้ปัญหา
  • Estonian: heuristlik
  • Bengali: হিউরিস্টিক
  • Turkish: sezgisel
  • Norwegian: heuristisk
  • French: heuristique
  • Portuguese (Brazil): heurística
  • Lithuanian: euristinis
  • Japanese: ヒューリスティック
  • Vietnamese: tự tìm tòi
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 啟發式
  • Greek: ευρετικός
  • Bulgarian: евристичен
  • Hungarian: heurisztikus
  • Spanish: heurístico
  • Latvian: heiristisks
  • Croatian: heuristički
  • German: Heuristik
  • Russian: эвристика
  • Swahili: Urithi
  • Basque: haiuristiko
  • Gujarati: ઉપદ્રવને લગતું
  • Danish: heuristisk
  • Kannada: ಕವಚ
  • Czech: heuristický
  • Ukrainian: евристичний
  • Finnish: heuristinen
  • Urdu: heuristic
  • Swedish: heuristisk
  • Telugu: హ్యూరిస్టిక్

What Are Synonyms of Heuristic?

Heuristic is a fairly uncommon word that many people may not know. If you are in a situation where you think someone else might now know the word heuristic, you can use a synonym of the term heuristic from Power Thesaurus

How many of these synonyms of heuristic do you know?

  • active
  • analytical
  • didactic
  • doubtful
  • educational
  • empirical
  • evidence-based
  • experiential
  • exploratory
  • fact-finding
  • hands-on
  • instructive
  • interested
  • interrogative
  • investigative
  • investigatory
  • pilot
  • practical
  • probationary
  • prying
  • questioning
  • rule of thumb
  • searching
  • trial-and-error
  • with our app


The term heuristic refers to a decision-making technique in which a person tries to solve problems by experimentation or trial and error. There are three main types of heuristic reasoning: anchoring and adjustment, representativeness, and availability or recency. 


Heuristics – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Heuristics Definition | Investopedia  

Heuristic Definition & Meaning | 

Heuristic | Nice Translator