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JavaScript Short-circuiting in boolean operators


The and-operator (&&) and the or-operator (||) employ short-circuiting to prevent unnecessary work if the outcome of the operation does not change with the extra work.

In x && y, y will not be evaluated if x evaluates to false, because the whole expression is guaranteed to be false.

In x || y, y will not be evaluated if x evaluated to true, because the whole expression is guaranteed to be true.

Example with functions

Take the following two functions:

function T() { // True
  return true;

function F() { // False
  return false;

Example 1

T() && F(); // false



Example 2

F() && T(); // false



Example 3

T() || F(); // true



Example 4

F() || T(); // true



Short-circuiting to prevent errors

var obj; // object has value of undefined
if(obj.property){ }// TypeError: Cannot read property 'property' of undefined
if(obj.property && obj !== undefined){}// Line A TypeError: Cannot read property 'property' of undefined

Line A: if you reverse the order the first conditional statement will prevent the error on the second by not executing it if it would throw the error

if(obj !== undefined && obj.property){}; // no error thrown 

But should only be used if you expect undefined

if(typeof obj === "object" && obj.property){}; // safe option but slower

Short-circuiting to provide a default value

The || operator can be used to select either a "truthy" value, or the default value.

For example, this can be used to ensure that a nullable value is converted to a non-nullable value:

var nullableObj = null;
var obj = nullableObj || {};  // this selects {}

var nullableObj2 = {x: 5};
var obj2 = nullableObj2 || {} // this selects {x: 5}

Or to return the first truthy value

var truthyValue = {x: 10};
return truthyValue || {}; // will return {x: 10}

The same can be used to fall back multiple times:

envVariable || configValue || defaultConstValue // select the first "truthy" of these

Short-circuiting to call an optional function

The && operator can be used to evaluate a callback, only if it is passed:

function myMethod(cb) {
    // This can be simplified
    if (cb) {

    // To this
    cb && cb();

Of course, the test above does not validate that cb is in fact a function and not just an Object/Array/String/Number.