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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.

Hunt, W. (1973). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 42:486-486.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:486-486

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Winslow Hunt

DISCUSSION: Dr. Manuel Furer questioned the definition of a fetish as an inanimate object which represents the missing maternal phallus and nothing else. He felt that this concept did not do justice to the complexity of the interrelationship between preoedipal and Oedipal development. He also thought that a genetic and dynamic continuity between the infantile and adult fetish was not proven by the data presented.

Dr. Robert Bak suggested the following classifications of inanimate object attachments in the first two years of life: 1, transitional objects which primarily soothe the trauma of the infant's separation from the mother's body; 2, prosthetic objects which serve the narcissistic purpose of maintaining the sense of body integrity, especially as props of the phallic self-image; 3, infantile fetishes which reassure against castration anxiety by symbolically representing the maternal phallus. The existence of an infantile fetish is in doubt as it would vitiate the temporal factor, the fetish being contingent on the phallic stage. Dr. Bak felt the issue may be impossible of solution since direct infant observation cannot tell us the precise meaning of a given behavior to the infant.

Dr. Margaret Mahler noted that the phenomena reported were commonly observed, especially in the violent reactions in girls to the early discovery of sexual differences.

[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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