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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.

Fink, K. (1994). Symmetry: Matte-Blanco's Theory and Borges's Fiction. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:1273-1273.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:1273-1273

Symmetry: Matte-Blanco's Theory and Borges's Fiction

Klaus Fink

Dear David,

Reading Dr Priel's excellent paper of the above title (Int. J. Psychoanal., 75: 815-23), I felt I could not pass up the opportunity to highlight her analysis of the story of Irineo Funes, 'Funes the Memorious' (pp. 821-22).

Despite having worked with Matte-Blanco's theories for many years and having published several papers on the subject, I have never been able to find a clinical example to illustrate my postulation that in a situation of pure asymmetry thought would come to a standstill, as it does in a situation of pure symmetry. Cases of pure symmetry, states of coma, absolute dementia and decerebration can be seen as states of total symmetry. But cases of absolute asymmetry, where thought comes to a standstill because objects are seen in all their differences and classified only in groups or sets containing that one single object, seemed not to exist. That is until now, when Dr Priel presents us the creation of Borges, the fictional but realistic patient called Irineo Funes.

I seems remarkable that Borges, who probably never read Matte-Blanco, could create characters who follow so closely the principles on which Matte-Blanco formulates the functioning of the unconscious. Matte-Blanco probably read Borges, but who knows if he read the story of 'Irineo the Memorious'? Borges and Matte-Blanco (who is still alive) were contemporaries living in neighbouring countries and sharing the same language and culture. What seems important is the fact that what in Spanish is called 'literatura fantástica' (fantastic literature) appeared in Latin America and is represented mainly by Borges, Vargas-Llosa, Garcia-Márquez and Isabel Allende.

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