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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.

Arkin, A.M. (1984). A Hypothesis Concerning the Incest Taboo. Psychoanal. Rev., 71(3):375-382.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Review, 71(3):375-382

A Hypothesis Concerning the Incest Taboo

A. M. Arkin

The taboo against incest is perhaps the most universal of all things humanly forbidden. There is no known society or culture devoid of this taboo (Sadock, 1980), and of all matters so tabooed, that against mother-son incest is the most stringent (Meiselman, 1978). Murder, theft, and bearing false witness against one's neighbor are more readily countenanced and excused throughout the world than incest. Freud, in his conclusions regarding the Oedipus complex, made the incest taboo and its ramifications a corner-stone of psychoanalysis. In Totem and Taboo (1913), still marvelous despite its weaknesses and invalid anthropological foundations (Kroeber, 1948), Freud ascribed the origin of the taboo to tensions arising from remorse engendered by parricidal wishes of sons, their fear of father's retribution, and murderous rivalry between the sons themselves. At the basis of this desperate predicament was the sons' sexual longings for the mother and other females who were jealously possessed by a father who was capable, for a time, of intimidating his sons singly. Freud hypothesized that the frustrated sons finally banded together and slew the tyrannical father hoping to gain access to the forbidden females. Instead, what followed was the realization that unless they all equally renounced the mother and other intensely desired females within the family, they would finally succeed in killing one another off— hence, the incest taboo, and mandatory exogamy.

The hypothesis which I should like to present does not gainsay Freud's formulations; rather it attempts to draw attention to an additional hitherto neglected possible factor. Freud's hypothesis considers the taboo against incest as originating solely from the strife between the males of the family in the course of their competition for the sexual favors of the females. The role of the females is depicted as essentially passive. They stand by and merely grant themselves to the victors.

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