Python Programming/Reflection

< Python Programming

A Python script can find out about the type, class, attributes and methods of an object. This is referred to as reflection or introspection. See also Metaclasses.

Reflection-enabling functions include type(), isinstance(), callable(), dir() and getattr().


The type method enables to find out about the type of an object. The following tests return True:

  • type(3) is int
  • type('Hello') is str
  • type([1, 2]) is list
  • type([1, [2, 'Hello']]) is list
  • type({'city': 'Paris'}) is dict


Determines whether an object is an instance of a class.

The following returns True:

  • isinstance(3, int)
  • isinstance([1, 2], list)

Note that isinstance provides a weaker condition than a comparison using #Type.

Duck typingEdit

Duck typing provides an indirect means of reflection. It is a technique consisting in using an object as if it was of the requested type, while catching exceptions resulting from the object not supporting some of the features of the class or type.


For an object, determines whether it can be called. A class can be made callable by providing a __call__() method.


  • callable(2)
    • Returns False. Ditto for callable("Hello") and callable([1, 2]).
  • callable([1,2].pop)
    • Returns True, as pop without "()" returns a function object.
  • callable([1,2].pop())
    • Returns False, as [1,2].pop() returns 2 rather than a function object.


Returns the list of attributes of an object, which includes methods.


  • dir(3)
  • dir("Hello")
  • dir([1, 2])


Returns the value of an attribute of an object, given the attribute name passed as a string.

An example:

  • getattr(3, "imag")

The list of attributes of an object can be obtained using #Dir.

External linksEdit