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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.

Spitz, R.A. (1952). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Postscript to My Paper on the Moses of Michelangelo (1927). Sigmund Freud. P. 94.. Psychoanal Q., 21:580-581.
    
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Postscript to My Paper on the Moses of Michelangelo (1927). Sigmund Freud. P. 94.

(1952). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21:580-581

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951: Postscript to My Paper on the Moses of Michelangelo (1927). Sigmund Freud. P. 94.

R. A. Spitz

This postscript is Freud's report on the discovery of confirmatory evidence of his earlier interpretation of the Moses of Michelangelo.

In 1914, an article with the title Der Moses des Michelangelo was published anonymously in the journal Imago. The editors justified the publication by stating that 'the author, who is personally known to them, belongs to psychoanalytic circles, and … his mode of thought has in point of fact a certain resemblance to the methodology of psychoanalysis'. The editors were vindicated when in 1924 Freud acknowledged his authorship of the article by including it in the first edition of his collected writings (Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. X, pp. 257–286) and one year later in the fourth volume of his Collected Papers. In this article Freud investigates a work of art without any reference to psychoanalytic terms or findings. He approaches it rather with the help of two basic psychoanalytic tools introduced by him, namely the genetic and the dynamic viewpoints. The results are gratifying: an understanding of the work of art is achieved which had not been possible to the art historian with the help of the traditional historical or æthetic approach.

The conclusions Freud drew are: 'What we see before us is not the inception of a violent action but the remains of a movement that has already taken place'. He adds further that it is 'a concrete expression of the highest mental achievement that is possible in a man, that of struggling successfully against an inward passion for the sake of a cause to which he has devoted himself'.

This is not the place to elaborate an obvious parallel, namely how very closely that which Michelangelo's Moses represents resembles that which Freud achieved in his own work and life.

The finding of a statuette of Moses attributed to Nicholas of Verdun, 1180 A.D., representing Moses in a state of violent emotion, confirms Freud's assumption that Michelangelo's Moses is conceived in a later stage in which his rage

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has already abated and only the remains of his emotion are still visible. Nicholas of Verdun's statuette shows Moses in a storm of passion, head thrown back, violently grasping his beard. Michelangelo's Moses has got hold of himself, the storm is over. Only the last evanescent traces of the subsiding anger are in evidence. Yet with their help Freud's vision reconstructed the happenings pictured in the earlier stattuette.

In his 'Postscript' Freud welcomes this confirmation. To the present reviewer this is an encouragement to continue studies in the pursuit of which, to quote Freud, the 'mode of thought has in point of fact a certain resemblance to the methodology of psychoanalysis'.

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Article Citation

Spitz, R.A. (1952). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXII, 1951. Psychoanal. Q., 21:580-581

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