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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.

Miller, M.L. (1951). The Traumatic Effect of Surgical Operations in Childhood on the Integrative Functions of the Ego. Psychoanal Q., 20:77-92.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 20:77-92

The Traumatic Effect of Surgical Operations in Childhood on the Integrative Functions of the Ego

Milton L. Miller, M.D.


Fear of expressing competitive impulses, unconsciously associated with intense fear of injury, was related to reactions to surgical operations in childhood in two cases. The development of initiative and independence of action was severely circumscribed. In one instance (a man), successful accomplishment (career, for example) was associated with punishment for hostility to the father, and a seductive attitude toward the mother. In the other (a woman), the expression of heterosexual wishes seemed connected with a strong unconscious fear of retaliation from the mother and sister.

The automatic, repetitive (2) nature of these patients' attempts to deal with reality by reverting to the past and unconsciously reacting to competitive situations as if to the threat of an operation (e.g., being 'gassed' or having fantasies of attacking someone with a knife when aggression and anxiety were stimulated) constituted a therapeutic problem.

Changes in the integrative function of the ego in each case depended upon uncovering repressed emotions connected with the memory of the operation, in order that the unconscious childhood emotions for which these patients felt they had once been punished could be understood. Both unconsciously felt the operation to be a punishment for masturbation. In the first case this proved to mask intense sexual interest in the mother and repressed rage at her seductive but frustrating attitude. In the second the memory of the operation seemed associated with imagined damage to sexual organs (loss of penis) and loss of the mother's protection.

The therapeutic process was focused upon interpreting the relation between the emotions uncovered by the fears of operation and current problems.

From the therapeutic point of view, the comparisons of the real problems these patients had to cope with, and their attempts

to solve them by presenting the fear of injury, or the 'injured child' attitude, were repeatedly stressed.

Both cases, operated on in their early childhood, seem to fit the concept of traumatic neuroses. They were able to diminish the effect of the trauma when the phobic symptoms and defenses of the ego were analyzed.

[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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