A methodical procedure for discovering solutions to problems.
The principal feature of heuristics is the formulation of a hypothetical solution to a problem at the beginning of an investigation of the problem. This working hypothesis serves to direct the course of the investigation, and is modified and refined as relevant facts are discovered and analyzed. During the course of the investigation, the heuristic method reduces the range, and increases the plausibility, of possible solutions of the problem. Unlike an algorithm, however, which is a methodical procedure that necessarily produces the solution of a problem, heuristics does not necessarily lead to the solution of a problem. Heuristics has been fundamental in the acquisition of scientific knowledge, and, in fact, is an essential component of many forms of complex human behavior.