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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Akhtar, S. (1994). Object Constancy and Adult Psychopathology. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:441-455.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:441-455

Object Constancy and Adult Psychopathology

Salman Akhtar


In this paper, the author has summarised Mahler's views on the initial acquisition of object constancy in early childhood. He then attempts to delineate its vicissitudes during oedipal phase, latency, adolescence, and various phases of adult development. Following this, the author describes, with the help of brief clinical vignettes, six psychopathological syndromes of adult life associated with disturbed object constancy: (i) impaired optimal distance; (ii) persistent splitting of self- and object-representations, with the concomitant intensification of affects; (iii) paranoia; (iv) inordinate optimism and the 'someday' fantasy; (v) malignant erotic transference; and (vi) impaired capacity to mourn, intense nostalgia and the 'if-only' fantasy. Finally, the author outlines the technical implications of these concepts and attempts to show that six tasks seem especially important for analytic work with such patients: (i) safeguarding the analyst's 'holding' function; (ii) interpreting splitting mechanisms, especially as these pertain to negative transference; (iii) maintaining optimal distance; (iv) discerning nonverbal communications, especially through countertransference; (v) encouraging developmental initiatives; and (vi) facilitating mourning, not only of past losses but also of those inherent in the analytic situation. Through all this, the author attempts to highlight, elucidate and extend modestly the work of Margaret Mahler.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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