Sociology Index


Heuristic device is an abstract concept or model useful for thinking about social and physical phenomena. Neo-Durkheimian cultural theory can be used as a heuristic device to explain how cross-cultural agro-food systems are constructed and maintained. An example of heuristic device is sociologist's use of the concept social structure to help them in defining and analyzing aspects of society that create patterns and regularity in the everyday roles and activities of individuals. Another heuristic device is the 'rational economic actor' proposed by economists, where the hypothetical behaviour of the rational economic actor throws light on the conduct of actual shoppers and consumers. Heuristic device is used when an entity X exists to enable understanding of, or knowledge concerning, some other entity Y. A good example is a model that, as it is never identical with what it models, is a heuristic device to enable understanding of what it models. Stories and metaphors can be termed heuristic in that sense. Cultural theory can be used, as a heuristic device, to frame policy outcomes in the external dimension of the European Space of Freedom, Security and Justice. cultural relativism is a heuristic device of fundamental importance because it calls attention to the importance of variation in any sample that is used to derive generalizations about humanity.

Sociologists do not imagine that individuals mechanically and automatically act in precisely prescribed ways within social structures or that social structures are unchanging or fixed, but the concept of structure and regularity is an essential tool for understanding how social life itself is possible.

The transformation of cultural relativism as a heuristic device into the doctrine of moral relativism occurred in the context of the work of the Commission of Human Rights of the United Nations in preparing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We may think of a discipline as an intellectual construct, a sort of heuristic device. - Immanuel Wallerstein. 

Anthropologists subscribe to the methodological and heuristic principles of Boas and his students in their research. Political scientist Alison Dundes Renteln faults philosophers for disregarding the heuristic and critical functions of cultural relativism. Her main argument is that in order to understand the principle of cultural relativism, one must recognize the extent to which it is based on enculturation: "the idea that people unconsciously acquire the categories and standards of their culture."

Regarding Chilcott's "Structural Functionalism as a Heuristic Device" Heuristically.
Blot, Richard K. - Anthropology & Education Quarterly, v29 n1 p112-14 Mar 1998.
The heuristic value of Chilcott's essay lies less in its support for structural functionalism and more in its concern to reexamine theory in the work of earlier educational anthropologists for what earlier theories and practices can add to current research.

The concept "patient career" as a heuristic device for making medical sociology relevant to medical students. - McKinlay John B. Abstract: Increasingly it is being suggested that the behavioural sciences can contribute to medical education and should be incorporated into the medical curriculum. Evidence for the development of this view in Great Britain can be found in the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission on Medical Education and the submissions of various bodies to it. Given that the behavioural sciences in general and medical sociology in particular, can contribute in a positive way to the medical curriculum this paper attempts to: (a) draw together and crystallize some of the major problems inherent in past attempts to organize and include the behavioural sciences in the medical curriculum; (b) devise some criteria for determining the behavioural science content of the medical curriculum; (c) outline and discuss one possible course in medical sociology utilizing, as an organizing framework, the concept “patient career”.

The European Union as a ‘heuristic device’: Ritualized Europeanization in Turkey
Didem Buhari-Gulmez
Comparative European Politics volume 14, pages 458–476(2016).
Abstract: Following the World Polity School of sociological institutionalism, this article argues that ‘many Europes’ operating in different (strategic, normative and cognitive) realms affects the EU’s projection of its authority abroad, and paves the way for the trifurcation of the Europeanization processes that influence society and politics in candidate countries like Turkey. The Turkish case is critical in terms of demonstrating a decoupling between the EU-led reform process and Turkey’s EU membership bids. By studying attitudinal variation in two reform areas where the status quo proves difficult to change, the study emphasizes the ritualized character of domestic compliance with EU membership conditionality and the role of the EU as a ‘heuristic device’ to help unpack some of the complexity of the global context and European multiplicity.