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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.

Mardyks, L.L. (1994). Wet Mind. The New Cognitive Neuroscience: By Stephen M. Kosslyn and Olivier Koenig. New York/Toronto: The Free Press, 1992. 548 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 63:154-158.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:154-158

Wet Mind. The New Cognitive Neuroscience: By Stephen M. Kosslyn and Olivier Koenig. New York/Toronto: The Free Press, 1992. 548 pp.

Review by:
Laura Levin Mardyks

How is it possible to paraphrase a text without remembering many of its words? How can someone who cannot comprehend spoken words in isolation use them effectively in speaking and interpret them easily in reading? How is it possible to conjure up images of past events or of those portending? These and other elusive questions for clinicians and educators are accorded plausible answers in this work. Stephen Kosslyn, Professor of Psychology at Harvard, and Olivier Koenig, Maître Assistant in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences of the University of Geneva, in fertile collaboration have broken new ground in the nascence of cognitive neuroscience, a field that remains more a philosophical interpretation than a hard science. In this "Decade of the Brain," a topic that has encouraged scientists and technicians to every extravagance is discussed here with clarity and precision.

With commendable compression, Wet Mind offers a comprehensive integration of how the complex neural substrates of the brain give rise to the mind. Kosslyn and Koenig have avoided the temptation to accomplish this in a thick volume that is so burdened by statistics, jargon, and footnotes as to risk terminal boredom.

[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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