Equality comparison of `boolean` and `Object` allowed?

By | January 12, 2018

The following code

public class TestComparison {
    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        boolean b = true;
        Object o = new Boolean(true);
        System.out.println("comparison result: "+ 
            (o == b)); // Eclipse complains about this expression

compiles without errors with javac V1.7.0_15, and prints “false” when run. However, Eclipse Juno complains about “Incompatible operand types Object and boolean”.

Apparently javac autoboxes the primitive boolean b, and then compares o and autoboxed b by object equality, yielding false, while Eclipse refuses to do the autoboxing.

Which is the right behaviour according to the Java Language Specification? Where should I file a bug?

Note: If I change the type of o to Boolean, things work as expected: Eclipse accepts the code, and the code prints “true”.

Runnable version on ideone.com


It’s your project language level setting. You are probably using a Java 7 compiler with Java 6 semantics. I don’t have Eclipse here, but I reproduced it in IntelliJ, which gave errors when the language level was on Java 6, even though the compiler I used was 7. I guess Eclipse has the same. This link explains it.


Concerning your ‘Note’ that the code compiles and works when o is changed to Boolean:

This code:

public class Tester{
  public static void main(String args[]){
    Boolean one = new Boolean(true);
    Object two = new Boolean(true);
    boolean three = true;
    System.out.println("SAME 1:2 " + (one == two) + " 1:3 " + (one == three) + " 2:3 " + (two == three));
    System.out.println("EQUAL 1:2 " + (one.equals(two)) + " 1:3 " + (one.equals(three)) + " 2:3 " + (two.equals(three)));

produces this result:

SAME 1:2 false 1:3 true 2:3 false
EQUAL 1:2 true 1:3 true 2:3 true

To see why this is, we need to consider the compile-time types of the various expressions:

  • one == two compares a Boolean with an Object – these are both reference types, so the test is reference equality (Java Language Specification, Java SE 7 edition, §15.21.3)
  • one == three compares a Boolean with a boolean – this is treated as a comparison of primitive boolean values (§15.21.2); one is unboxed and compared with three.
  • two == three compares an Object with a boolean – in this case the boolean is converted to Object by a casting conversion (§5.5, in this case boxing boolean to Boolean and then widening Boolean to Object) and the two are then compared for reference equality.

The EQUAL line is much simpler – all three cases are calls to Boolean.equals(Object other), using boxing when the argument is three.

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