Context (this)

this with simple objects

var person = {
  name: 'John Doe',
  age: 42,
  gender: 'male',
  bio: function() {
    console.log('My name is ' + this.name);
  }
};
person.bio(); // logs "My name is John Doe"
var bio = person.bio;
bio(); // logs "My name is undefined"

In the above code, person.bio makes use of the context (this). When the function is called as person.bio(), the context gets passed automatically, and so it correctly logs "My name is John Doe". When assigning the function to a variable though, it loses its context.

In non-strict mode, the default context is the global object (window). In strict mode it is undefined.

Saving this for use in nested functions / objects

One common pitfall is to try and use this in a nested function or an object, where the context has been lost.

document.getElementById('myAJAXButton').onclick = function(){
    makeAJAXRequest(function(result){
      if (result) { // success
        this.className = 'success';
      }
    })
}

Here the context (this) is lost in the inner callback function. To correct this, you can save the value of this in a variable:

document.getElementById('myAJAXButton').onclick = function(){
    var self = this;
    makeAJAXRequest(function(result){
      if (result) { // success
        self.className = 'success';
      }
    })
}
6

ES6 introduced which include lexical this binding. The above example could be written like this:

document.getElementById('myAJAXButton').onclick = function(){
    makeAJAXRequest(result => {
      if (result) { // success
        this.className = 'success';
      }
    })
}

Binding function context

5.1

Every function has a bind method, which will create a wrapped function that will call it with the correct context. See for more information.

var monitor = {
  threshold: 5,
  check: function(value) {
    if (value > this.threshold) {
      this.display("Value is too high!");
    }
  },
  display(message) {
    alert(message);
  }
};

monitor.check(7); // The value of `this` is implied by the method call syntax.


var badCheck = monitor.check;
badCheck(15); // The value of `this` is window object and this.threshold is undefined, so value > this.threshold is false

var check = monitor.check.bind(monitor);
check(15); // This value of `this` was explicitly bound, the function works.

var check8 = monitor.check.bind(monitor, 8);
check8(); // We also bound the argument to `8` here. It can't be re-specified.

Hard binding

  • The object of hard binding is to "hard" link a reference to this.
  • Advantage: It's useful when you want to protect particular objects from being lost.
  • Example:
function Person(){
    console.log("I'm " + this.name);
}

var person0 = {name: "Stackoverflow"}
var person1 = {name: "John"};
var person2 = {name: "Doe"};
var person3 = {name: "Ala Eddine JEBALI"};

var origin = Person;
Person = function(){
    origin.call(person0);
}

Person();
//outputs: I'm Stackoverflow

Person.call(person1);
//outputs: I'm Stackoverflow


Person.apply(person2);
//outputs: I'm Stackoverflow


Person.call(person3);
//outputs: I'm Stackoverflow
  • So, as you can remark in the example above, whatever object you pass to Person, it'll always use person0 object: it's hard binded.

this in constructor functions

When using a function as a , it has a special this binding, which refers to the newly created object:

function Cat(name) {
  this.name = name;
  this.sound = "Meow";
}

var cat = new Cat("Tom"); // is a Cat object
cat.sound; // Returns "Meow"

var cat2 = Cat("Tom"); // is undefined -- function got executed in global context
window.name; // "Tom"
cat2.name; // error! cannot access property of undefined