Can't Touch This

In JavaScript, the most confusing thing is what the heck this is or even refers to in a function. Most of the time it seems like this is just referring to the current function, but actually in JavaScript, this refers to the calling context. Let’s look at an example to see what that means:

function Animal(species) {
  this.species = species;


What does this.species refer to here? It actually refers to the global window variable of the browser! The function Animal was called in the context of the global window object. After running that, try printing console.log(window.species); and see what you get to confirm.

If we make one modification though, we can get this to refer to something else and not window. We just have to call new on the function.

(run this in a different browser tab):

function Animal(species) {
  this.species = species;

var dog = new Animal('dog');
console.log(dog.species); // dog
console.log(window.species); // undefined

Now, this is a referring to a new instance of Animal, in this case it’s the variable dog

The this variable has even more interesting characteristics when you look at how you can refer to a specific object as the calling context by calling or applying it to that. Let’s see an example of that, and note the invocation of Restaurant.apply:

function Restaurant() {

var obj = {
  menu: [
    'Hamburger', 'Pizza', 'Salad'

Restaurant.apply(obj); // ['Hamburger', 'Pizza', 'Salad'];
Restaurant(); // undefined

To summarize, this can be whatever you want it to be, if you just specify which object it’s referring to. If you don’t specify one via apply, call, or new, then it will refer to the global window object.