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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.

Faunce, B.K. (1997). Paranoia and Spectatorship in 12 Monkeys. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(3):453-459.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(3):453-459

Film Notes

Paranoia and Spectatorship in 12 Monkeys

B. K. Faunce

In a recent interview, director Terry Gilliam was asked to compare his “vision of the future” in an earlier film, Brazil, with that in his latest release, 12 Monkeys. The response is telling: “Brazil didn't take place in the future. It took place on the opposite side of now, [whereas] in 12 Monkeys … the future may be only the constructs of the demented mind of James Cole [Bruce Willis]“1 The film opens with a typed statement that appears to point in a similar direction: Five billion people have been killed by a mysterious virus, the surface of the planet is ruled by animals, humans have been forced underground, and various mental disorders are the fallout.

Gilliam's twenty-first century reveals an enclosed fantasyscape of darkness and impending dangers, the ghastly aftermath of an industrial apocalypse in which helpless prisoners are manipulated by hostile forces. In that respect, his futuristic “reality” has all the markings of a paranoid panorama. In “Notes on a Case of Paranoia,” Freud points out that fears of world-catastrophe are frequently reported in such cases and denote the subject's externalization of a “profound internal change” (1911, p. 69).2 Insofar as paranoiacs endeavor to protect themselves against perceptions or feelings that are considered threatening to the ego, the “contents” of these auditory/sensory impressions, “after undergoing a degree of distortion, enter consciousness in the form of an external perception” (p. 66). A transformation of affect occurs whereby what is pleasurable is first repressed and then expelled through a process of projection, the expelled material often manifesting itself as a persecution complex.2 From this perspective, the dehumanizing environment of 2025 might well be understood as the product of the troubled mind of James Cole, a position that would seem to account for both the mysterious virus and the mise-en-scène gone mad: The former represents the fantasized wish, the latter its rejection, or what Kaja Silverman describes as “relocating unwanted qualities from inside to outside” (1988, p. 317).3


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