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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.

Panksepp, J. (2000). The Cradle of Consciousness: A Periconscious Emotional Homunculus?: Commentary by Jaak Panksepp. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):24-32.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):24-32

The Cradle of Consciousness: A Periconscious Emotional Homunculus?: Commentary by Jaak Panksepp

Jaak Panksepp

On the Affective Evolution of Consciousness

Crick and Koch provide a frank and refreshing view of the current status of consciousness studies: after a great deal of philosophical debate (Block, Flanagan, and Guzeldere, 1997) the mystery of consciousness abides, and the only way to lift the veil is through novel theoretically oriented neuropsychological inquiries. As Crick and Koch put it: radically new ideas may be necessary and I write this essay with that perspective in mind. They also follow their own advice, and toy with the idea that some type of unconscious, neurally instantiated homunculus provides an essential substrate for the emergence of consciousness within higher brain activities. I am in deep sympathy with such an approach (Panksepp, 1998a, b), and would like to push it further in a direction that Crick

and Koch acknowledged but intentionally avoid: the possibility that some type of emotional “feelings” may lie at the core of human and animal consciousness. There is much to commend this idea, but it is radical (at least for the present Zeitgeist), deeply evolutionary, and not accompanied by any established standards of scientific or philosophic discourse. Thus, affect remains a most difficult topic to discuss/dissect in neuroscientifically, not to mention psychoanalytically, meaningful ways (Panksepp, 1999a; Solms and Nersessian, 1999a). In other words, by some paradoxical quirk of tradition, since Freud's (1923, 1940) penetrating discussions of the topic ended, emotions have been ignored in consciousness studies as if they were some type of vestigial unconscious flotsam as opposed to one of the foundational issues of mind and its conscious manifestations.

As Crick and Koch note, many others have passingly entertained the idea, but it has not yet emerged as a frontrunner in brain and consciousness studies.

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