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. Another 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.
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.
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.
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"
Richard K. Blot - Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 112-114
The concept "patient career" as a heuristic device for making medical sociology relevant to medical students.McKinlay JB. - PMID: 5144423.