Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises


Artificial intelligence

core definition

Artificial intelligence is the name given to the interdisciplinary study designed to make machines do things which would require intelligence if done by humans.

explanatory context

Broadly, artificial intelligence is the attempt to develop computer programs that simulate human thought processes.


Artificial intelligence is not, therefore, concerned with the serial logic of a computer program, for example, but with an attempt to get machines in some way or other to reproduce human action and/or thought. Artificial intelligence is thus the study of the solution of problems by computers employing human-like means rather than machine algorithms.


Artificial intelligence draws on computer science, philosophy, logic, psychology and linguistics, and to a lesser extent on mathematics, mechanical engineering, electronics, neuro-physiology and psycho-linguistics.


In its early stages various orientations to artificial intelligence were identified; robotic, behaviouristic and cognitive.


The robotic approach is concerned with building machines controlled by computer that simulate human intelligent behaviour. The concern here is not with the processes of the human brain but of reproducing human action.


The behaviouristic approach is concerned with simulating human intelligence. It adopts a behaviourist psychology approach, simulating intelligence as a function of behaviour rather than the working of the brain.


The cognitive approach attempts to model human intelligent processes (i.e., the processes of the brain) by means of computer programs.


Artificial intelligence is at core concerned with problem solving and knowledge representation. Artificial intelligence has been developed in lots of areas including game playing, robotics, vision, natural language understanding (speech synthesis, speech understanding, machine translation of languages), knowledge engineering (expert systems), and cognitive modelling (computer-aided instruction, learning)


There are artificial intelligence programming languages (early ones included PROLOG and SMALLTALK and more recently POP-11).

analytical review

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (1995–2013) provides the following definition of artificial intelligence:

"the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."

The National Academy of Science [2004]offers the following short summary of the field: "One of the great aspirations of computer science has been to understand and emulate capabilities that we recognize as expressive of intelligence in humans. Research has addressed tasks ranging from our sensory interactions with the world (vision, speech, locomotion) to the cognitive (analysis, game playing, problem solving). This quest to understand human intelligence in all its forms also stimulates research whose results propagate back into the rest of computer science—for example, lists, search, and machine learning."

Psychology Glossary (1998–2016) states :

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a computer or machine that has been created to "think" like a human. The idea behind it is that human reasoning can be understood and defined based on input(your experiences) and output(your actions). When a human makes a decision, they consider certain important variables. If you can enter the variables into a computer with AI, you should get a logical response. AI has opened up many philosophical questions such as: What is a person? Do machines with AI have rights just as persons do? Watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then decide if the character Data is a person with rights, or a machine without rights.

associated issues


related areas



Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2019, 'AI Topics', available at, accessed 21 November 2019.

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), 2004, Computer Science: Reflections on the Field, Reflections from the Field, Section 6: Achieving Intelligence.

Psychology Glossary, 1998–2016, 'Artificial intelligence' available at , accessed 21 November 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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