Re: [R] ifelse(logical, function1, function2) does not work

From: Rolf Turner <>
Date: Sat 07 Oct 2006 - 16:04:06 GMT

Peter Dalgaard writes:

> Alberto Vieira Ferreira Monteiro <> writes:
> > Why this kind of assignment does not work?
> >
> > n <- 1
> > f <- ifelse(n == 1, sin, cos)
> > f(pi)
> It's not supposed to.
> 'ifelse' returns a value with the same shape as 'test' which is
> filled with elements selected from either 'yes' or 'no' depending
> on whether the element of 'test' is 'TRUE' or 'FALSE'.
> which makes very little sense if yes and no are functions.

	I think that's a debatable assertion.  Why might I
	not want a vector, or rather a list, of functions?

	(Mr. Monteiro's real sin is a very common one ---
	using ifelse() unnecessarily/inappropriately, i.e.
	when the ``test'' argument is a scalar.)

	But to get back to trying to apply ifelse() with functions
	for the ``yes'' and ``no'' arguments:

	What's happening is really a feature of the ***rep()***
	function, and the way that it treats objects of different
	natures.  If you do rep(1,5) you get a vector of 5 1's.  If
	you do rep(sin,5) you get an error message.

	Note however that if you do

		> x <- list(a=17,b=42)
		> junk <- rep(x,5)

	then junk is a list of length 5, each entry of which is
	a copy of x.  I.e. rep() works as expected (?) with lists.

	And if you make the assignments

		> y <- list(a=42,b=17)
		> n <- 1

	and then execute

		> ifelse(n==1,x,y)

	you get a copy of x.  So rep does its thing with numbers (and
	vectors) and lists, but not with *functions*.

	What else might one try to rep?  What about matrices?  Works,
	but the matrix is coerced to a vector first.  One might have
	naively hoped that rep(M,5) would yield a list of length 5,
	each entry of which was a copy of M.  But it doesn't; it
	gives a vector of length 5*nrow(M)*ncol(M) consisting of
	the data of M strung out in column order, 5 times over.

	The function rep() seems to have (S3) methods associated
	with it --- rep.Date, rep.factor, etc., but no generic
	function.  I.e. rep() does not seem to dispatch methods.
	Nor is there a rep.default().

	I wrote a ``method'' for the matrix class

		rep.matrix <- function(x,times) {
				stop("Argument x is not a matrix.\n")
			ans <- list()
			ans[1:times] <- list(x)

	That seemed to give the result I expected/wanted; rep(M,5)
	did indeed give a list of length 5, each entry of which was a
	copy of M.

	However a similar ``method'' for functions did not work;
	rep(sin,5) gave the same old ``object is not subsettable''

	But if I called rep.function() *explicitly* I got what I
	wanted.  I.e.

		> rep.function(sin,5)

	gave a list of length 5 each entry of which was

	Questions:  How do methods for rep() get dispatched
	when there is no generic rep()?

		    How come the matrix method that I wrote
	got dispatched, but the function method didn't?


					Rolf Turner

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