don't understand behaviour of recursive structure

MRAB google at
Sat Mar 14 19:54:20 CET 2009

bieffe62 at wrote:
> On 14 Mar, 17:31, Dan Davison <davi... at> wrote:
>> I'm new to python. Could someone please explain the following behaviour
>> of a recursive data structure?
>> def new_node(id='', daughters=[]):
>>     return dict(id=id, daughters=daughters)
> Most probably, here is the problem : try this instead:
> def new_node(id='', daughters=None):
>      if not daughters: daughters = []
>      return dict(id=id, daughters=daughters)
> This is one of the less intuitive points in python: default values are
> evaluated only once,
> at 'compile' time I think. So when you call twice 'new_node' without
> specifying the daughters
> parameters, both dict will have the _same_  list.  Hence chaos
It's not really 'compile' time. 'def' is a _statement_, not a
declaration. Its effect is to create a function and bind it to a name in 
the current namespace. Any default parameters are evaluated when the
function is created and they are shared by all the function calls.

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