The conditional operator is necessary for converting an expression such as a > b into a boolean.


To map a boolean expression to a boolean, a conditional operator is necessary


To map a boolean expression to a boolean, one can just use it

Here is what's right.

The condition to be used in a ternary conditional operator has to be an expression of type boolean. Thus, that expression already will evaluate to a boolean value. Taking that boolean value and using a conditional operator to map from it to a boolean value is entirely unnecessary.

boolean b = CONDITION ? true : false;

This can be refactored into:

boolean b = CONDITION;

Where could this misconception come from?

This misconception may stem from the student doing a case analysis:

  • If the condition is true, what do we want to do?
  • If the condition is false, what do we want to do?

Originally, each case may do more than just produce a boolean value. But due to some simplification, the cases then reduce to just a boolean value, resulting in this kind of code.

Some students do not seem to recognize that the simplified version is equivalent to the version using the conditional operator.

How do you know your students might have this misconception?

In the following examples, assume that CONDITION is some expression of type boolean (e.g., isHappy, i < length, o != null, pacman.isHungry(), or a && b).

Example: Assignment

boolean b = CONDITION ? true : false;

Example: Return

boolean predicate() {
  return CONDITION ? true : false;

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