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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.

Parsons, E.C. (1916). Discomfiture and Evil Spirits. Psychoanal. Rev., 3(3):288-291.

(1916). Psychoanalytic Review, 3(3):288-291

Discomfiture and Evil Spirits

Elsie Clews Parsons

The psychologists have discovered ethnology. There is Professor Thorndike's criticism of the ideo-motor theory, a theory, he points out, that “originated some fifty thousand years ago in the form of the primitive doctrine of imitative magic, and is still cherished because psychology is still, here and there, enthralled by cravings for magical teleological power in ideas beyond what the physiological mechanisms of instinct and habit allow.” There is Freud with a book on totemism and taboo and Dr. Otto Rank writing about the hero myth. And the other day in the hands of one of their American translators, a well-known alienist, I noted with surprise a volume of “The Golden Bough.” At a later moment I was still more surprised to hear the theory of recapitulation issuing from his respectable psychological lips. That alluring theory the Freudians, it seems, have resurrected to serve their turn. And for their theory of the infantile psychosis it does nicely. How long it will satisfy them is another question. Meanwhile it is a means of directing their attention to the study of comparative culture.

In this field there is, I venture to suggest, a particularly fertile corner awaiting them—demonology. Between belief in evil spirits or bad luck and apprehensive or troubled states of mind there is unquestionably a close relation. For the moment I would point out the concomitance of belief in supernatural evil and perturbation of a certain type, the perturbation caused by breaks in the routine of life.

In spite of the safeguards given the tendency to routine, given habit, these breaks must occur, and they occur the more sharply for their very postponing. Sooner or later the facts of change caused by age or sex must be met. Shirked as they actually occur, when met at last face to face they startle or shock. Ceremonialism and, by the less primitive, sentimentality are the methods we take to reduce this shock. Crisis or epochal ceremonial is, we may say, a kind of shock absorber.

Nevertheless, mitigated though it be, in various degrees the shock of change does tell.

[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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