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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.

Kluckhohn, C. (1959). Taboo: By Franz Steiner. With a preface by E. E. Evans-Pritchard. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1956. 154 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 28:540-541.

(1959). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 28:540-541

Taboo: By Franz Steiner. With a preface by E. E. Evans-Pritchard. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1956. 154 pp.

Review by:
Clyde Kluckhohn

This is a compact and learned little book. Dr. Steiner gives a history of the use of the word 'taboo' in ethnographic literature, sketching the cultural contexts involved. He then reviews and criticizes various theoretical positions, explicit and implicit. He concludes that all of the things that have been discussed under the rubric of 'taboo' cannot be seen in terms of a single problem; '… taboo is an element of all those situations in which attitudes to values are expressed in terms of danger behavior …'.

The chapter on Wundt ('the German counterpart of the English mid-Victorians') and Freud will probably be of greatest interest to the readers of this journal. Steiner eschews any criticism of Freud on psychological grounds, dealing only with matters that are 'believed or assumed to have some bearing on sociological generalizations'. He feels that Freud's consideration of the ethnographic materials stresses only two points: the difference between, and distinctiveness of, fright and horror, and the automatic nature of the taboo sanction. Steiner sees 'a certain arbitrariness' in this following of 'the best tradition' of the Victorian intellectuals.

There follows an acute criticism of the four points that Freud found in common between taboo customs and the symptoms of obsessional neurosis. The absence of offered motivation is not an acceptable criterion, for, if it were, 'the by-laws of a railway company would be closer to taboo than parental orders'. As a rule, motives are not assigned in cultures. 'This is an elementary observation, which no theory of drives can invalidate.' Second, the evidence does not support Freud's assumption of 'internal necessity' except in so far as all culture is internalized. Third, Freud's concept of 'morbid contagion concepts' confounds, from the ethnographic standpoint, two categories of things with two different sets of abstractions. Fourth, Freud's assertion that taboos give rise to injunctions for the performance of ceremonial acts begs the question. Cultural studies indicate that the chain of events often starts from the reverse direction.

Finally, Steiner calls attention to many points in Freud's argument that are demonstrably incorrect from the ethnographic data.

[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.]

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