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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.

Holzman, P.S. (1952). Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. XLVI, 1951: Reindividualizing the Repression Hypothesis. Lillian Belmont and Herbert G. Birch. Pp. 226–235.. Psychoanal Q., 21:454.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. XLVI, 1951: Reindividualizing the Repression Hypothesis. Lillian Belmont and Herbert G. Birch. Pp. 226–235.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21:454

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. XLVI, 1951: Reindividualizing the Repression Hypothesis. Lillian Belmont and Herbert G. Birch. Pp. 226–235.

Philip S. Holzman

Belmont and Birch operationally define repression as the forgetting of nonsense syllables learned under conditions of 'negative affect'—the experiencing of an electric shock. They find that of a group of fifty-five college students, thirty-eight learned the shock syllables at a greater rate than the no-shock syllables, while sixteen found it more difficult to learn the shock syllables. One subject learned the shock and no-shock syllables at an equal rate. In a recognition test, all subjects were able to recognize all the syllables correctly. The authors' principal conclusion is that 'when strong negative affect is attached to learning material the recall of this material is significantly less than the recall of neutral material for some individuals, and significantly more than the recall of neutral material for others'. 'Repression', or forgetting the nonsense syllables, is one of the ways people may cope with this particular learning situation.

The basic assumption of the study, that repression was measured, is open to serious question. It is not likely that in this situation an instinctual derivative was being coped with in the forgetting or slow learning of the nonsense syllables. It appears, rather, that the authors were observing the various ways in which their subjects coped with extraneous distractors (electric shocks) as these impinged on the learning of a list of nonsense syllables.

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Article Citation

Holzman, P.S. (1952). Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. XLVI, 1951. Psychoanal. Q., 21:454

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