Loren on the Art of MATLAB

Turn ideas into MATLAB

Assignment with Repeated Indices

I have had customers ask me occasionally about what happens during an indexed assignment when indices are repeated. The answer is that it depends on how you do the assignment.

Contents

Repeated Indices with a Single Assignment

I initialize an output matrix to zeros and create two vectors, one with locations (indices) and one for the corresponding data. Now let's look at the results of an indexed assignment.

A = zeros(3);
loc = [1 3 7 9 1];
data = 1:5;
A(loc) = A(loc) + data
A =
     5     0     3
     0     0     0
     2     0     4

You see in this case that even though index 1 was repeated, its output value is only 5, and not 6. Let me reset A so I can show you what's going on.

A = zeros(3);

Here's what "essentially" happens during an assignment in MATLAB. On the right-hand side, A(loc) is created.

A(loc)
ans =
     0     0     0     0     0

This means that there are 2 copies of A(1) currently and an element of data will be added to each of these. The important thing to realize is that now the values for the right-hand side have been calculated and set.

A(loc) + data
ans =
     1     2     3     4     5

Following this, the 5-element right-hand side is assigned into A(loc) on the left-hand side. Values are currently placed into the output vector by marching down the left-hand side locations, replacing one element at a time. So the first element gets replaced not once, but twice, with the final one being the value that you see.

A(loc) = A(loc) + data
A =
     5     0     3
     0     0     0
     2     0     4

Repeated Indices Using a for Loop for the Assignment

Here's another way to do the assignment, but in this case, the

B = zeros(3);
for n = 1:length(loc)
  B(loc(n)) = B(loc(n)) + data(n);
end
B
B =
     6     0     3
     0     0     0
     2     0     4

Notice that the output here for B does not match that from the vectorized assignment above. This is because the values for the right-hand side get updated one at a time, and can therefore accumulate as additions made to a particular index.

isequal(A,B)
ans =
     0

Using accumarray to Accumulate Results with Repeated Indices

What if you want the accumulation effect, but you'd prefer to use vectorized code? That's what the function accumarray is for.

C = accumarray(loc',data,[9 1]);
C = reshape(C,[3 3])
C =
     6     0     3
     0     0     0
     2     0     4

We see the same results here as those from the for loop example.

isequal(B,C)
ans =
     1

Repeated Index Usage

Did you know this about MATLAB already? I'm curious to hear your experiences in this area. Post them here.




Published with MATLAB® 7.4

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