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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.

Heath, A. (2015). Mind Your Mind, Episode 4: Dreams. PEP Video Grants, 1(1):7.

(2015). PEP Video Grants, 1(1):7

Mind Your Mind, Episode 4: Dreams

Author and Director
A. Chris Heath, M.D.

James Grant and Brad Trent

What does that dream mean? In Mind Your Mind, Episode 4: Dreams, Dr Heath explores the depths of dream meaning. Does every dream represent a wish, in more or less disguised form? Dr Heath approaches that question, and talks about the disguises and the wish. As we go along on his journey, Dr Heath finds examples of dreams, and what they might mean.


-Huh? What? Yeah, I had one of those dreams again. Man, those are the weirdest things-- Freud and Jung were chasing me. Wait, the camera's on? I know we have to stay on schedule. OK well, funny coincidence-- this is Doctor Heath. I'm a psychoanalyst, and today's session is about dreams.

People have been trying to understand dreams for millennia. Dreams show up in sacred scripture, in fairy tales-- even prehistoric people were interested in dreams. Can we queue up that picture? This cave painting appears to portray a dream. Of the 4,000 images in the caves in Lascaux, France, there is only one of a human-- this one. The slain bison and a symbolic spear with a bird at the end. The spear flew like a bird. And the human, laying down with physical signs that happen during REM sleep, when most dreaming happens.

Freud discovered one meaning of the dream-- just to keep the person asleep. See, without all the distractions of waking life, wishes emerge. The dream is like a play where these wishes can be fulfilled without waking up the person. Let's see an example. This cartoon is from Freud's book "The Interpretation of Dreams." In this dream, the night nurse finds a place for the boy to potty. We find out later, the dream was the mind's way to keep the night nurse asleep and ignore the boy crying. But it gets harder and harder, and the dream symbol becomes more and more drastic, trying to keep the night nurse from waking up.

So Freud thought there was always a wish expressed in every dream. But for some dreams, the wish might be hard to understand. What? There's a wish in that? It's not so simple. The meaning gets turned around to its opposite, several ideas might be blended-- and all this in ways particular to the individual. Freud discovered a method to unlock the meaning. If a person says whatever comes to mind, and this is harder than you might think, things show their connections with one another, and the meaning becomes more apparent. Here's an example-- when I think of the color blue, it happens to remind me of the sky, then flying, and then I think about freedom. These are all connected in my mind, so it reflects an underlying concept. And this is the way we can understand dream symbols. We can't just look them up in a book, the meaning has to come from within you. The wishes and dreams get turned around. For instance, what about a bad dream? Is that a wish? Well for instance, what if there's a trauma that the person is trying to master? They're trying to understand what happened to them and how it could be different-- therefore, a wish.

Or sometimes, it expresses the fear of the opposite. What if I truly let go of my experience? Who would I be? Am I afraid of the uncertainty if I truly accept myself? But wait-- if a dream does represent a wish, then our innermost secrets, even hidden from ourselves, could be hidden in plain sight, in dream content. There's a lot of evidence for this wish fulfillment theory about dreams. For instance, the very areas of the brain that activate when we're enjoying things like love and beauty? These are the very areas that activate when we're dreaming. It's like when we're dreaming, we're imagining things that excite us. Let's see an example of a dream. Here's a dream of mine from episode one of "Mind Your Mind."

Mmmm, dream content is another way the unconscious manifests up. For instance, if this is a dream, how did I end up beside a judge having tea? One lump, please. There are all kinds of investments that my unconscious has in all these symbols around me. For instance, why didn't I have Sofia Vergara in my dream instead of a judge? But it was weird, Doctor Freud. Why did I have a judge in my dream instead of somebody like Sofia Vergara? I'm stumped.

-Yeah, but wait. There's something else more interesting. When you describe the pony, what comes to mind?

-And there was. I said it was a pony instead of a horse-- odd way to describe it, given the scene in the dream. And why, of the thousands of images I saw yesterday, would this be in my dream? But wait, my mind is doing me a favor. It reminds me of the pony I got for Christmas when I was little, and how I felt with my dad back then. And that is exactly the way I feel when I'm around my boss, who I idealized like he can do no wrong. But he's only human. In real life, I'm seeing my boss as bigger than life, as if he's a parent, and I'm a child. So there's this unconscious stuff I see when I look at my boss, and there's a wish that goes along with it. I wish that there was somebody I could completely trust. That wish becomes the dream wish, and it would have woken me up, had my mind not seamlessly build it into this dream.


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Article Citation

Heath, A. (2015). Mind Your Mind, Episode 4: Dreams. PEP Video Grants, 1(1):7

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