Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
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.

Plutchik, R. (1964). Inside the Black Room. By Jack A. Vernon. New York: Potter, 1963. Psychoanal. Rev., 51C(3):196-197.

(1964). Psychoanalytic Review, 51C(3):196-197

Inside the Black Room. By Jack A. Vernon. New York: Potter, 1963

Review by:
Robert Plutchik

This book is a simply written account for the general reader of a series of researches that have been in progress at Princeton University since 1954 on the effects of sensory deprivation (or S.D.). Because of the relative scarcity of previous research in this area most of the things that were tried were done on an “I wonder what would happen …” basis. The conclusions are limited by the fact that almost all of the subjects were volunteer male, graduate students at Princeton, ranging in age from 20 to 32; each was paid 20 dollars a day for participating. The confinement periods in a completely black, soundproofed room varied from 24 to 96 hours. Sandwiches, soup and water were provided as well as toilet facilities, all within the black room. A “panic” button was provided so that the subject could indicate if he wished to leave before the confinement period was over.

Some familiar and some unfamiliar things were found. For example, there was a tendency for suggestibility (as measured by a sway test) to increase with an increase in the time spent in S.D. There was also a definite tendency for subjects to underestimate the duration of time they had spent in the black room. Half of the subjects complained of difficulty in thinking in that their thoughts “got out of control,” while two out of three lost their ability to concentrate.

With regard to the effect of S.D. on learning, it was found to improve the learning of simple memory tasks (learning lists of eight words); it had no effect on tasks of moderate difficulty (learning lists of 15 words) and it impaired complex learning (concept-formation tasks).

[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.]

Copyright © 2020, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.