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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.

Ahumada, J.L. (2004). On intolerance to the object's goodness. A response to Dr Symington. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(4):1005-1007.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(4):1005-1007

On intolerance to the object's goodness. A response to Dr Symington

Jorge L. Ahumada

Dear Sirs,

I can readily accept Dr Symington's idea that separation is highly traumatic when the attachment is of a leech-like nature but much less so if the attachment involves an inner creative act; however, here the fact of such inner creative act is itself evidence of achieved individuation. While Lawrence's analysis went on mainly at neurotic levels, Dr Symington's statement that the focus was persistently on the leech-like nature of the attachment signals that relevant undercurrents of the analysis belong at autistic levels. I also agree that Lawrence's remark acknowledging the significance of emotional contact in the sessions denotes a significant psychic evolution from leech-like autistic-mimetic attachment to a more evolved level of emotional functioning.

Thus, on the question of why I find that contact with the goodness of the object tends to be intolerable, the short answer is that acknowledging the goodness of the object requires, as just mentioned in Lawrence's case, a significant evolution in the mode of psychic functioning. This is prone to evoke what Bion called a hatred of a process of development (1959, p. 89), the issue being most acute at the level of autistic-mimetic functionings.

Intolerance of the goodness of the object is not a newcomer to our literature. Fittingly, Freud builds on the terrain opened up in Beyond the pleasure principle (1920) by introducing it into The ego and the id (1923) in the form of the ‘negative therapeutic reaction’ at the point where the felt goodness of the analyst and of the analytic process itself elicits a sometimes incoercible intolerance, which he mainly attributes to unconscious guilt.

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