Implied instance attribute creation when referencing a class attribute

Russell Warren russandheather at
Tue Jan 17 05:56:29 CET 2006

D'oh... I just realized why this is happening.  It is clear in the
longhand as you say, but I don't think in the way you descibed it (or
I'm so far gone right now I have lost it).

  self.I += 1

is the same as

  self.I = self.I + 1

and when python tries figures out what the 'self.I' is on the right
hand side. it of course ends up having to move up to the base class
foo.__dict__ because there is no 'I' in self.__dict__ yet.  So it ends
up effectively being:

  self.I = foo.I + 1

which explains where the "self.I = foo.I' that I was claiming was being
done magically comes from.

What my head was thinking was that the 'self.I' lookup would move up to
get foo.__dict__['I'], and that I would effectively get 'foo.I += 1',
but this is a bit of a brain fart and is just plain wrong.

I should have seen that earlier... oh well.  I'm happy that it is
perfectly clear where it comes from, now.  It still does look odd when
you do a simplistic comparison of the behaviour of 'x += 1' and 'self.I
+= 1', but I suppose that that's just the way the lookup scheme
crumbles.  An unfortunate (and rare?) quirk, I guess.

It still might be nice were python to just block out this potential
confusion with an Exception... it seems that class vs instance
attribute referencing is confusing enough for people without having
this type of potential confusion lurking around the syntax.  It seems
like  such a simple thing, but to understand the outcomes requires
knowing how the name lookup scheme works, how mutable/immutable objects
are dealt with, and what the += keystroke-saver/macro operator is
actually doing.  That this is stuff that someone coding in python
should understand could certainly be argued, though...


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