# Contravariant functors are Weird

Just a note about nomenclature before we start; I’ll use “functor” to represent the categorical meaning of the concept:

A functor is a mapping between categories

and `Functor`

and `Contravariant`

to specify the typeclass encodings of functors.

Let’s begin!

Contravariant functors are odd aren’t they? Covariant functors (which are modelled by the `Functor`

typeclass) are quite straightforward but **contra**variant functors as their name implies seem to be the complete opposite.

Before we get into what a contravariant functor is, it’s useful to look at the `Functor`

typeclass which we know and love.

## Functor

A `Functor`

is defined as:

```
class Functor f where
fmap :: (a -> b) -> f a -> f b
```

We often understand a `Functor`

to be a “container” or a “producer” of some type, where the function supplied to `fmap`

is applied to the elements that are “contained” or “produced” in some type constructor^{1} `f`

.

A simple example would be the list (`[]`

) type, that can represent zero or more values. Given a `[a]`

we can turn it into a `[b]`

when given a function `a -> b`

.

```
data [] a = [] | a : [a] -- an approximation of the [] data type
instance Functor [] where
fmap _ [] = []
fmap f (x:xs) = f x : fmap f xs
```

In the example below we convert a `[Int]`

into a `[String]`

given a function `Int -> String`

:

```
import Data.Semigroup ((<>))
myInts :: [Int]
myInts = [1 .. 5]
emptyInts :: [Int]
emptyInts = []
intToString :: Int -> String
intToString n = (show n) <> "!"
myStrings :: [String]
myStrings = fmap intToString myInts -- ["1!","2!","3!","4!","5!"]
myEmptyString :: []
myEmptyString = fmap intToString emptyInts -- []
```

Another example would the `Maybe`

data type, that represents a value that may or may not exist.

```
data Maybe a = Nothing | Just a
instance Functor Maybe where
fmap _ Nothing = Nothing
fmap f (Just x) = Just (f x)
```

In the example below we convert a `Maybe Int`

into a `Maybe String`

given a function `Int -> String`

:

```
import Data.Semigroup ((<>))
maybeInt :: Maybe Int
maybeInt = Just 10
notInt :: Maybe Int
notInt = Nothing
intToString :: Int -> String
intToString n = (show n) <> "!"
maybeString :: Maybe String
maybeString = fmap intToString maybeInt -- Just "10!"
notString :: Maybe String
notString = fmap intToString notInt -- Nothing
```

The `Functor`

typeclass has laws, that ensure `Functor`

instances behave in a predictable way.

### Laws

#### Identity

`fmap id == id`

Essentially if you do nothing to the value of a `Functor`

, you get the same `Functor`

you started with.

#### Composition

`fmap (f . g) == fmap f . fmap g`

If you convert the result of a Functor by `fmap`

ing with a function `g`

and then `fmap`

ing that result with a subsequent function `f`

, it’s the same as composing functions `g`

and `f`

(`f . g`

) and then `fmap`

ing once.

### The Wrong Type of fmap

Now let’s look at something a little different. Let’s create a data type to wrap a predicate of some sort. A predicate is something that will evaluate to a `Bool`

:

`newtype Predicate a = Predicate { getPredicate :: a -> Bool }`

An example of a Predicate is `greaterThanTen`

:

```
greaterThanTen :: Predicate Int
greaterThanTen = Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
```

that tests whether a number is greater than ten.

We can run with it `getPredicate`

and an `Int`

:

```
getPredicate greateThanTen 5 -- False
getPredicate greateThanTen 11 -- True
```

It could be useful to define a `Functor`

instance for Predicate - say if we have a `Predicate Int`

and we want to convert it into a `Predicate String`

when we have a `Int -> String`

function. Let’s try and implement that:

```
instance Functor Predicate where
-- fmap (a -> b) -> Predicate a -> Predicate b
fmap f (Predicate p) = Predicate (\b -> undefined)
fmap f (Predicate (a -> Bool)) = Predicate (\b -> undefined) -- expanding p
fmap (a -> b) (Predicate (a -> Bool)) = Predicate (\b -> undefined) -- expanding f
```

Now we’ve run into a small problem:

How do we compose (a -> Bool) and (a -> b) to give us a (b -> Bool) ?

We are given a `b`

but we don’t have access to any functions that actually use a `b`

.

The problem is that we can’t. It’s because of something called “polarity” of the type variable `a`

. No `Functor`

instance for you `Predicate`

.

## Polarity

Polarity is a way of representing variance using the position of type variables. Let’s take a simple function `a -> b`

as an example.

If a type variable is in **input** position like `a`

it is given a **negative** polarity. If it is in an **output** position like `b`

then it is given a **positive** polarity.

These polarities map directly to variant types.

Polarity | Variance |
---|---|

Positive | Covariant |

Negative | Contravariant |

Both | Invariant |

What this means is that `Functor`

s (which are actually covariant functors) require a type constructor in a covariant position in order for you to define a `Functor`

instance for that type.

Let’s look at a type that we know has a `Functor`

instance like `Maybe`

:

We can see that the type variable `a`

occurs in a covariant (or output) position within the definition of the `Just`

constructor.

Now let’s look at the definition of `Predicate`

data type:

We can see that the type variable `a`

occurs in a contravariant (or input) position. This indicates that we can’t create a (covariant) `Functor`

instance for this data type.

But we want to map things! What do we do?

## Contravariant

Welcome the `Contravariant`

typeclass to the stage! It’s defined as:

```
class Contravariant f where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
```

Snazzy! `Contravariant`

also takes some kind of type constructor `f`

just like `Functor`

but it has this weirdly named `contramap`

function instead of `fmap`

.

```
fmap :: (a -> b) -> f a -> f b -- Functor
contramap :: (a -> b) -> f b -> f a -- Contravariant
^^^
```

If we read `fmap`

as:

If you have an

`a`

in some context and a function that takes that`a`

and converts it to a`b`

, I can give you a context with a`b`

in it.

we can then read `contramap`

as:

If you have a context that needs an

`a`

and a function that can convert`b`

s to`a`

s, I can give you a context that needs`b`

s.

But that probably doesn’t make much sense. So let’s try and look at this in terms of our non-`Functor`

: `Predicate`

. `Predicate`

has a **need** for an `a`

, which it then uses to tell if something about that `a`

is True or False.

Let’s try and write a `Contravariant`

instance for `Predicate`

given that we know that the type `a`

in `Predicate`

occurs in an input position.

```
instance Contravariant Predicate where
-- contramp (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
contramap (a -> b) -> Predicate b -> Predicate a -- substituting for `f` for Predicate
contramap aToB (Predicate bToBool) = Predicate (\a -> undefined)
```

Given that we have a function `a -> b`

and essentially a function of type `b -> Bool`

(wrapped inside a `Predicate b`

), we can if given an `a`

, convert it to a `b`

using `aToB`

and then give that `b`

to `bToBool`

to give us a `Bool`

.

Here’s a slightly long-form implementation of the `Contravariant`

instance for `Predicate`

:

```
instance Contravariant Predicate where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> Predicate b -> Predicate a
contramap aToB (Predicate bToBool) =
Predicate $ \a ->
let b = aToB a
bool = bToBool b
in bool
```

or more succinctly:

```
instance Contravariant Predicate where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> Predicate b -> Predicate a
contramap f (Predicate b) = Predicate $ b . f
```

We can see from the definition of `Predicate a`

that all we are doing is running the supplied function `f`

**before** the function within `Predicate b`

. The reason we do that is to adapt a new input type to match an existing input type to gain some functionality.

If we revisit the (covariant) `Functor`

instance for `Maybe`

:

```
instance Functor Maybe where
fmap _ Nothing = Nothing
fmap aToB (Just a) = Just (aToB a)
```

we can see that the function `aToB`

is run **after** we have a value of `a`

. We do that to convert a result of some type to another type.

These are the essential differences between covariant and contravariant functors:

Typeclass | Function runs | Purpose |
---|---|---|

Functor | after | Convert results |

Contravariant | before | Adapt inputs |

Now that we know the essential difference between `Functor`

and `Contravariant`

, let’s look at how we can use `contramap`

with our `Predicate`

class.

Given that we already have a `Predicate`

that determines whether a number is greater than ten:

```
numGreaterThanTen :: Predicate Int
numGreaterThanTen = Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
```

say we want to write another `Predicate`

that verifies that the length of String is greater than ten characters.

```
strLengthGreaterThanTen :: Predicate String
strLengthGreaterThanTen = Predicate (\s -> (length s) > 10)
```

Sure, that’s pretty contrived but bear with me. Let’s also say we have a `Person`

data type and we want to know if a person’s name is over ten characters long - if so we consider that to be a long name.

```
data Person = Person { personName :: String, personAge :: Int }
personLongName :: Predicate Person
personLongName = Predicate (\p -> (length . personName $ p) > 10)
```

And we can run these `Predicate`

s as:

```
getPredicate numGreaterThanTen 5 -- False
getPredicate numGreaterThanTen 20 -- True
getPredicate strLengthGreaterThanTen "hello" -- False
getPredicate strLengthGreaterThanTen "hello world" -- True
getPredicate personLongName $ Person "John" 30 -- False
getPredicate personLongName $ Person "Bartholomew" 30 -- True
```

And this is fine, but there’s some duplication across each of the `Predicate`

s - namely the part where we compare a number to ten:

```
(\n -> n > 10) -- Int
(\s -> (length s) > 10) -- String
(\p -> (length . personName $ p) > 10) -- Person
```

It would be nice if we didn’t have to repeat ourselves.

If we look at the differences between `numGreaterThanTen`

, `strLengthGreaterThanTen`

and `personLongName`

we can see that the only difference is that one works on an `Int`

and the others work on `String`

and `Person`

respectively. `strLengthGreaterThanTen`

and `personLongName`

each convert their input types to an `Int`

and then do the same comparison:

```
Predicate (\(n :: Int) ->
let num = id n
in num > 10 -- (1)
) -- numGreaterThanTen
Predicate (\(s :: String) ->
let num = length s
in num > 10 -- (1)
) -- strLengthGreaterThanTen
Predicate (\(p :: Person) ->
let name = personName p
num = length name
in num > 10 -- (1)
) -- personLongName
```

The above expansion of the functions demonstrates that even though the `Predicate`

s themselves have different input types, at the end they are all converted to a number which is compared against the number ten. This is tagged with `(1)`

in the above example.

We can also see that the only changes between the `Predicate`

s is the conversion from one type to another **before** running our comparison function `(1)`

. This is our clue that we can use `contramap`

here to reuse some functionality.

```
numGreaterThanTen :: Predicate Int
numGreaterThanTen = Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
strLengthGreaterThanTen2 :: Predicate String
strLengthGreaterThanTen2 = contramap length numGreaterThanTen -- convert the String to an Int, then pass it to numGreaterThanTen
personLongName2 :: Predicate Person
personLongName2 = contramap (length . personName) numGreaterThanTen -- convert the Person to an Int, then pass it to numGreaterThanTen
```

We get the same results as before:

```
getPredicate strLengthGreaterThanTen2 "hello" -- False
getPredicate strLengthGreaterThanTen2 "hello world" -- True
getPredicate personLongName2 $ Person "John" 30 -- False
getPredicate personLongName2 $ Person "Bartholomew" 30 -- True
```

Now we have rewritten `strLengthGreaterThanTen`

and `personLongName`

in terms of `numGreaterThanTen`

by just running a function before it to convert the types. This is a simple example of a Contravariant Functor where we can reuse some existing functionality for a given type if we can convert from our other types to that type through some mapping function.

We can also go a little further and reuse even more:

```
personLongName3 :: Predicate Person
personLongName3 = contramap personName strLengthGreaterThanTen -- convert the Person to a String, then pass it to strLengthGreaterThanTen
```

### Laws

Just like `Functor`

has laws, `Contravariant`

also has laws. This is awesome - because laws make our lives easier.

#### Identity

`contramap id == id`

Essentially if you do not change the value of a `Contravariant`

functor, you get the same `Contravariant`

functor you started with.

#### Composition

`contramap f . contramap g = contramap (g . f)`

If you convert the input to some `Contravariant`

functor by `contramap`

ing with function `g`

and then convert its input to some other type by `contramap`

ing again with a function `f`

, it’s the same as composing the functions `f`

and `g`

(`g . f`

) and then `contramap`

ing once. Notice the order of composition is switched as opposed to when we looked at the `Functor`

laws.

Let’s take `Predicate`

as an example and try out the identity law. The `Contravariant`

instance for `Predicate`

is defined as:

```
instance Contravariant Predicate where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
contramap f (Predicate p) = Predicate (p . f)
```

Given that we have a `Predicate Int`

:

```
numGreaterThanTen :: Predicate Int
numGreaterThanTen = Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
```

Using `contramap id`

on the above:

```
-- identity law
contramap id numGreaterThanTen == numGreaterThanTen
-- lhs
Predicate (p . f) -- applying contramap
Predicate (p . id) -- expanding f
Predicate (p) -- applying f
Predicate (\n -> n > 10) -- expanding p
-- rhs
numGreaterThanTen
Predicate (\n -> n > 10) -- expanding numGreaterThanTen
-- equality
lhs == rhs
Predicate (\n -> n > 10) == Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
```

Once again using `Predicate`

as an example, let’s explore the compositional law of `Contravariant`

.

Given that we have the following `Predicate`

s:

```
numGreaterThanTen :: Predicate Int
numGreaterThanTen = Predicate (\n -> n > 10)
length :: [a] -> Int
personName :: Person -> String
```

Using `numGreaterThanTen`

, with `length`

and `personName`

:

```
-- composition law
contramap personName . contramap length $ numGreaterThanTen = contramap (length . personName) numGreaterThanTen
-- lhs
contramap personName . contramap length $ numGreaterThanTen
contramap personName . contramap length $ Predicate (\n -> n > 10) -- expanding numGreaterThanTen
contramap personName (Predicate $ \str ->
let num = length str
bool = num > 10
in bool
) -- applying length
Predicate $ \person ->
let str = personName person
num = length str
bool = num > 10
in bool
) -- applying personName
=> Predicate Person
-- rhs
contramap (length . personName) numGreaterThanTen
contramap (\person ->
let str = personName person
num = length str
in num
) numGreaterThanTen -- expanding length . personName
Predicate (\person ->
let str = personName person
num = length str
bool = num > 10 -- expanding numGreaterThanTen
in bool
)
=> Predicate Person
-- equality
lhs == rhs
Predicate (\person ->
let str = personName person
num = length str
bool = num > 10
in bool
) ==
Predicate (\person ->
let str = personName person
num = length str
bool = num > 10
in bool
)
```

### Combinators

There are some built-in combinators that go with `Contravariant`

.

#### Infix contramap

Similar to the `contramap`

function the following functions can be used infix:

```
-- infixl 4
(>$<) :: Contravariant f => (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
-- contramap :: Contravariant f => (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
```

A simple example of it in use:

```
p5 :: Predicate Int
p5 = Predicate $ \n -> n == 5
pLength5 :: Predicate [a]
pLength5 = length >$< p5
getPredicate pLength5 "hello"
-- True
getPredicate pLength5 "hello world"
-- False
```

Same as `contramap`

but with the parameters switched:

```
-- infixl 4
(>$$<) :: Contravariant f => f b -> (a -> b) -> f a
-- contramap :: Contravariant f => (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
```

#### Infix const

These combinators take in a constant input and completely ignore the input supplied when running the `Contravariant`

instance.

```
-- infixl 4
(>$) :: b -> f b -> f a
```

It has a default implementation of:

```
(>$) :: b -> f b -> f a
(>$) = contramap . const
```

Let’s see how that works:

```
-- const when given two values returns the first value ignoring the second
const :: a -> b -> a
const x _ = x
contramap :: Contravariant f => (a -> b) -> f b -> f a
(>$) :: b -> f b -> f a
(>$) = contramap . const
(>$) b = contramap (const b) -- simplifying with b
(>$) b = contramap (a -> b) -- applying `const b`
(>$) b fb = contramap (a -> b) fb -- simplifying with fb
(>$) b fb = fa -- simplifying `contramap (a -> b) fb`
```

A simple example of it in use:

```
p5 :: Predicate Int
p5 = Predicate $ \n -> n == 5
pLength5 :: Predicate [a]
pLength5 = contramap length p5
getPredicate pLength5 "hello"
-- True
getPredicate pLength5 "hello world"
-- False
pAlwaysFalse :: Predicate [a]
pAlwaysFalse = 10 >$ p5
getPredicate pAlwaysFalse "hello"
-- False (because 10 /= 5)
getPredicate pAlwaysFalse "hello world"
-- False
```

Same as above but with the parameters switched:

```
-- infixl 4
($<) :: Contravariant f => f b -> b -> f a
```

### LogAction

Let’s look at another example of `Contravariant`

. Imagine you have the following data type that encapsulates performing some side effect on some polymorphic type `a`

:

`newtype LogAction a = LogAction { unlog :: a -> IO () }`

For our purposes we can assume that we are going to use this to log some value either to the console or to a file or some other medium. This example has been adapted from the LogAction class of the CO-LOG logging library. Definitely check out the library for real-world uses of `Contravariant`

and friends.

As we can see the type variable `a`

occurs in input position so we should be able to define a `Contravariant`

instance for it:

```
instance Contravariant LogAction where
contramap :: (b -> a) -> LogAction a -> LogAction b
contramap bToA logActionA = LogAction $ \b -> unlog logActionA (bToA b)
```

There should be no surprises here; we run the supplied function `bToA`

on the input *before* passing it to the log action.

Here’s a slightly simplified implementation of the above:

```
instance Contravariant LogAction where
contramap f logActionA = LogAction $ unlog logActionA . f
```

So how can we use `LogAction`

? Let’s define a couple of implementations:

```
putStrLog :: LogAction String
putStrLog = LogAction putStr
putStrLnLog :: LogAction String
putStrLnLog = LogAction putStrLn
```

`putStrLog`

and `putStrLn`

are just wrappers around `putStr`

and `putStrLn`

from `base`

. Both log a String to the console, the difference being that `putStrLn`

sends a newline character to the console after each call.

Here’s how we’d use `putStrLnLog`

:

```
unlog putStrLnLog "Hello World"
-- Hello World
```

Remember that `LogAction`

*needs* an `a`

which in this case is a `String`

.

Now because we have the power of contravariance, we should be able to log out other types if we can convert them to a `String`

.

Here are some examples:

```
-- simple function around contramap for LogAction
putStringlyLnLog :: (a -> String) -> LogAction a
putStringlyLnLog f = contramap f putStrLnLog
-- Now we can log Ints
putStrLnInt :: LogAction Int
putStrLnInt = putStringlyLnLog show
data Person = Person { name :: String, age :: Int }
-- custom String representation of Person
showPerson :: Person -> String
showPerson (Person name age) = "Person(name:" <> name <> ", age: " <> (show age) <> ")"
-- Now we can log people
putStrLnPerson :: LogAction Person
putStrLnPerson = putStringlyLnLog showPerson
-- custom String representation of Person that only displays age
showPersonAge :: Person -> String
showPersonAge person = "age: " <> (show $ age person)
-- Additional Person LogAction which outputs only age
putStrLnPersonAge :: LogAction Person
putStrLnPersonAge = putStringlyLnLog showPersonAge
```

Here’s how we can run the above:

```
unlog putStrLnInt 42
-- 42
unlog putStrLnPerson $ Person "Neelix" 60
-- Person(name:Neelix, age: 60)
unlog putStrLnPersonAge $ Person "Tuvok" 240
-- age: 240
```

We can see that `LogAction`

for `Person`

, *needs* a `Person`

instance as input to perform the log action.

Something that might not be obvious is that we can also adapt an input type to itself. It’s not necessary to always convert from one type to another.

Here are some example functions which we can use with `contramap`

:

```
hello :: String -> String
hello = ("Hello" <>)
there :: String -> String
there = ("there" <>)
doctor :: String -> String
doctor = ("Doctor" <>)
space :: String -> String
space = (" " <>)
```

Here’s how we compose the above functions into a `LogAction`

:

```
putStrLnGreeting :: LogAction String
putStrLnGreeting = contramap space . contramap doctor . contramap space . contramap there . contramap space . contramap hello $ putStrLnLog
```

Whoa! That’s even hard to read. What does it do? Remember from the second law of `Contravariant`

that:

`contramap f . contramap g = contramap (g . f)`

Given that, we can rewrite our highly compositional `LogAction`

like so:

```
putStrLnGreeting :: LogAction String
putStrLnGreeting = contramap (hello . space . there . space . doctor . space) $ putStrLnLog
```

At least this is somewhat more readable - but the great thing is that knowing the laws helped us make our code more legible. But still - what does this do?

The trick is to remember that `Contravaraint`

composition works in **reverse** to normal composition:

`contramap f . contramap g = contramap (g . f) -- notice the (g . f) instead of (f. g)`

This is how `putStrLnGreeting`

is evaluated:

```
putStrLnGreeting :: LogAction String
putStrLnGreeting = contramap (hello . space . there . space . doctor . space) $ putStrLnLog
unlog putStrLnGreeting "Switzer" -- run the logger with "Switzer" as the input
-- the input is going to go through this sequence of functions:
-- (hello . space . there . space . doctor . space)
-- applying space
" " <> Switzer
-- applying doctor
"Doctor" <> " " <> Switzer
-- applying space
" " <> "Doctor" <> " " <> Switzer
-- applying there
"there" <> " " <> "Doctor" <> " " <> Switzer
-- applying space
" " <> "there" <> " " <> "Doctor" <> " " <> Switzer
-- applying hello
"Hello" <> " " <> "there" <> " " <> "Doctor" <> " " <> Switzer
-- final output:
-- Hello there Doctor Switzer
```

Let’s look at one more `LogAction`

which might be interesting; One where we ignore the input and return some constant output:

```
override :: a -> a -> a
override value = const value
```

A we mentioned previously, `const`

is defined as `a -> b -> a`

, where it accepts two inputs but returns the value of the first input (ignoring the second input).

Here’s how we use it with `LogAction`

:

```
qPutStrLn ::LogAction String
qPutStrLn = contramap (override "This is Q!!") putStrLnLog
-- run it
unlog qPutStrLn "Picard J L"
-- This is Q!!
```

Now if our memory serves, we should be able to do the same with `>$`

:

```
qPutStrLnOp :: LogAction String
qPutStrLnOp = "This is Q!!" >$ putStrLnLog
-- run it
unlog qPutStrLnOp "Sisko B L"
-- This is Q!!
```

### Equality and Ordering

Now let’s look at two somewhat related concepts: equality and ordering

#### Equivalence

Let’s imagine that we have a datatype called `Equivalence`

that wraps an equality expression:

`newtype Equivalence a = Equivalence { getEquivalence :: a -> a -> Bool }`

Given two values of type `a`

the `getEquivalence`

function will return a `Bool`

indicating if they are equal or not.

Now we can see that both `a`

type variables are in input position. Let’s define a `Contravariant`

instance for it:

```
instance Contravariant Equivalence where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> Equivalence b -> Equivalence a
contramap aToB (Equivalence eqB1B2) = Equivalence $ \a1 a2 ->
let b1 = aToB a1
b2 = aToB a2
in eqB1B2 b1 b2
```

Something important to note is that the function we supply to `contramap`

(`a -> b`

) is run on twice - once on each of the input parameters (`b`

).

Given an `Equivalence`

for `Int`

:

```
intEq :: Equivalence Int
intEq = Equivalence (==)
```

We can run it as:

```
getEquivalence intEq 1 2
-- False
getEquivalence intEq 1 1
-- True
```

We can calculate the equivalence of other types using `contramap`

:

```
strLengthEq :: Equivalence String
strLengthEq = contramap length intEq
data Person = Person { name :: String, age :: Int }
personAgeEq :: Equivalence Person -- equality by age
personAgeEq = contramap age intEq
personNameLengthEq :: Equivalence Person -- equality by length of name
personNameLengthEq = contramap name strLengthEq
```

Here’s how we can run the above:

```
-- t1 = Person "Tuvok1" 240
-- t2 = Person "Tuvok2" 340
-- t3 = Person "Neelix" 60
-- t4 = Person "Janeway" 40
getEquivalence personAgeEq t1 t2
-- False
getEquivalence personAgeEq t1 t1
-- True
getEquivalence personAgeEq t2 t2
-- True
getEquivalence personAgeEq t2 t3
-- False
getEquivalence personNameLengthEq t1 t2
-- True
getEquivalence personNameLengthEq t3 t4
-- False
getEquivalence personNameLengthEq t1 t4
-- False
```

#### Comparison

Let’s imagine that we have a datatype called `Comparison`

that wraps a comparison expression:

`newtype Comparison a = Comparison { getComparison :: a -> a -> Ordering }`

Given two values of type `a`

the `getComparison`

function will return an Ordering (`LT`

, `GT`

or `EQ`

) with respect to each other.

Now we can see that both `a`

type variables are in input position as before. Let’s define a `Contravariant`

instance for it:

```
instance Contravariant Comparison where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> Comparison b -> Comparison a
contramap aToB (Comparison cmpB1B2) = Comparison $ \a1 a2 ->
let b1 = aToB a1
b2 = aToB a2
in cmpB1B2 b1 b2
```

We can see that the wrappers for `Equivalence`

and `Comparison`

are almost the same, as are their `Contravariant`

instances.

Given a `Comparison`

for Int as:

```
intCmp :: Comparison Int
intCmp = Comparison compare
```

We can run it as:

```
getComparison intCmp 1 1
-- EQ
getComparison intCmp 1 2
-- LT
getComparison intCmp 2 1
-- GT
```

We can now calculate the comparison of other types using `contramap`

:

```
strCmp :: Comparison String
strCmp = contramap length intCmp
personAgeCmp :: Comparison Person
personAgeCmp = contramap age intCmp
fstCmp :: Comparison a -> Comparison (a, b)
fstCmp compA = contramap fst compA
```

Nothing new here. Let’s have a look at how to sort numbers. We use the `sortBy`

function defined in `Data.List`

from the `base`

package:

`sortBy :: (a -> a -> Ordering) -> [a] -> [a]`

We can see from the sortBy function definition that it can accept the data wrapped in the `Comparison`

data type:

```
sortBy :: (a -> a -> Ordering) -> [a] -> [a]
getComparison :: a -> a -> Ordering
```

Sorting numbers with the above function:

```
-- unsortedNumbers = [3, 5, 1, 4, 2]
-- ascending sort
sortBy (getComparison intCmp) unsortedNumbers
-- [1,2,3,4,5]
-- descending sort
sortBy (flip $ getComparison intCmp) unsortedNumbers
-- [5,4,3,2,1]
```

Notice how we just use the flip function to change between ascending and descending sort:

`flip :: (a -> b -> c) -> b -> a -> c`

`flip`

just changes the order of input parameters. `flip`

is awesome :) I saw this technique first used at Roman Cheplyaka’s blog.

But here’s something interesting: since we know how to sort `Int`

s we also know how to sort people by age via `personAgeCmp`

! Let’s see that in action:

```
-- unsortedPeople = [Person "Tuvok1" 240, Person "Janeway" 40, Person "Neelix" 60]
-- ascending sort
sortBy (getComparison personAgeCmp) unsortedPeople
-- [Person {name = "Janeway", age = 40},Person {name = "Neelix", age = 60},Person {name = "Tuvok1", age = 240}]
-- descending sort
sortBy (flip $ getComparison personAgeCmp)
-- [Person {name = "Tuvok1", age = 240},Person {name = "Neelix", age = 60},Person {name = "Janeway", age = 40}]
```

### Function Types

A regular function can be though of being defined as:

`newtype RegularFunc a b = RegularFunc { getRegular :: a -> b }`

We can define a `Functor`

instance for `RegularFunc`

because `b`

is in output position. But what about `a`

, which is in input position? More on that below.

Let’s recall what the definition of the `Functor`

type class looks like:

```
class Functor f where
fmap :: (a -> b) -> f a -> f b
```

In the above declaration, `f`

is a type constructor with one type hole. Given `RegularFunc`

which has two type holes (`a`

and `b`

), we need to fill one in, in order to use it with the `Functor`

instance implementation. To do this we fix `a`

and get the type constructor `RegularFunc a`

. We can’t fix `b`

as partial application of types is done from left to right (holes can only be on the right).

```
instance Functor (RegularFunc a) where
fmap :: (b -> c) -> f b -> f c
fmap = (.)
```

We can’t define a `Contravariant`

instance for `a`

because we have to fix `a`

(we can’t define behaviour over it). All we have to play with is `b`

which is in output position (and hence covariant)

Oh! Come on! If only we didn’t have to fix `a`

. What if we could fix `b`

instead? We don’t care about `b`

. `b`

is dead to us.

Let’s dream up such a type and call it `Op`

- for **op**posite of regular:

`newtype Op a b = Op { getOp :: b -> a }`

Now we can see that the type `b`

is in input position within the data type. It’s also on the right of `Op a b`

which means we don’t have to fix it.

`Op a b`

can be a little confusing because we have switched the position of type parameters `a`

and `b`

as they were in `RegularFunc`

; `a`

is the output and `b`

is the input.

Data type | Polarity of a | Polarity of b |
---|---|---|

RegularFunc a b | Input | Output |

Op a b | Output | Input |

And guess what? We can now fix `a`

(which is now our output) and can define a `Contravariant`

instance for `Op`

:

```
instance Contravariant (Op a) where
contramap :: (c -> b) -> Op a b -> Op a c
contramap cToB (Op bToA) = Op $ \c ->
let b = cToB c
in bToA b
```

Here’s a simple example of how to use it:

```
stringsLength :: Op Int [String]
stringsLength = Op $ sum . fmap length
unqiueStringsLength :: Op Int (S.Set String)
unqiueStringsLength = contramap S.toList stringsLength
```

If we know how to sum all the lengths of a `[String]`

we can adapt that function to sum the lengths of a `Set`

of `String`

:

```
import Data.Set (fromList)
namesList = ["Paris", "Kim", "B'Elanna", "Seven"]
namesSet = fromList namesList
getOp stringsLength $ namesList
-- 21
getOp unqiueStringsLength $ namesSet
-- 21
```

Now `Predicate`

, `Comparison`

, `Equivalence`

and `Op`

seem like useful data structures. The good news is that they already exist in the Data.Functor.Contravariant package from `base`

so you don’t have to write them yourself.

One interesting implementation detail of the `Comparison`

and `Equivalence`

`Contravariant`

instances is that they are implemented using the `on`

function:

```
newtype Equivalence a = Equivalence { getEquivalence :: a -> a -> Bool }
instance Contravariant Equivalence where
contramap f g = Equivalence $ on (getEquivalence g) f
```

The `on`

function is defined as:

```
on :: (b -> b -> c) -> (a -> b) -> a -> a -> c
(.*.) `on` f = \x y -> f x .*. f y
```

Essentially given a function `b -> b -> c`

and a function `a -> b`

, the second function will be applied to each input of type `a`

converting it to a `b`

and then the first function is applied on the transformed inputs. Such reuse. :)

## More Polarity

Let’s take a look at the `CallbackRunner`

example from FP Complete:

```
newtype CallbackRunner a =
CallbackRunner {
runCallback :: (a -> IO ()) -> IO ()
}
```

Type variable `a`

is in input position so we should be able to write a `Contravariant`

instance for it:

```
instance Contravariant CallbackRunner where
contramap :: (a -> b) -> CallbackRunner b -> CallbackRunner a
contramap aToB (CallbackRunner runCallbackB) = CallbackRunner $ \aToIO ->
runCallbackB $ \b ->
let a = undefined -- where do we get an `a` from?
in aToIO a
-- if we had a (b -> a) we could convert the `b` to an `a`
```

Hmm. Now it looks like we have a problem. There doesn’t seem to anyway for us to get an `a`

to pass to `aToIO`

to complete the implementation. We have a `b`

and if there was a function `b -> a`

instead of our `a -> b`

, we could convert that `b`

to an `a`

and it would all work.

This is because there’s more to the polarity story than I’ve shared up until now. While `a`

is in input position in `a -> IO()`

, it’s polarity changes when it’s also used as an input to the function `(a -> IO ()) -> IO ()`

. I previously mentioned that an input position is a `negative`

polarity and an output position is a `positive`

polarity.

To figure out the final polarity of something we need to multiply its polarities at every context it is used within in the function definition. More on this below.

Polarity multiplication is similar to the multiplication of positive and negative numbers:

### Polarity Multiplication Table

Polarity1 | x | Polarity2 | Polarity |
---|---|---|---|

Positive | x | Positive | Positive |

Positive | x | Negative | Negative |

Negative | x | Positive | Negative |

Negative | x | Negative | Positive |

Let’s try and figure out the polarity of `a`

given our new found multiplication skills. Given `runCallback`

:

`runCallback :: (a -> IO ()) -> IO ()`

`a`

is in input or negative position in:

`a -> IO ()`

but within whole function it’s a slightly different story:

```
(a -> IO ()) -> IO () -- func
x = (a -> IO ()) -- assigning (a -> IO ()) to x in func
x -> IO () -- substituting x in func
```

We can see that `x`

in the above example is in input or negative position as well. Given that `x`

is `a -> IO ()`

:

```
(a -> IO ()) -> IO ()
-- a -> IO (a is negative)
-- (a -> IO ()) -> IO () (the whole parenthesis are in negative position)
-- polarity of a: negative * negative = positive
```

Given that `a`

is now in output or positive position, we should be able to write a `Functor`

instance for it:

```
instance Functor CallbackRunner where
fmap :: (a -> b) -> CallbackRunner a -> CallbackRunner b
fmap aToB (CallbackRunner runCallbackA) = CallbackRunner $ \bToIO ->
runCallbackA $ \a ->
let b = aToB a
result = bToIO b
in result
```

And we can!! If you want to dig more into polarities there are some good exercises at the FP Complete article.

## Invariant Functors

We briefly mentioned invariant functors when talking about Polarity but never mentioned them again until now. The `Invariant`

typeclass is the parent typeclass of both `Functor`

and `Contravariant`

)

Given that this post is quite long, I’m only going to mention that `Invariant`

has both covariant and contravariant functions in its definition:

```
class Invariant f where
invmap :: (a -> b) -> (b -> a) -> f a -> f b
```

where `a -> b`

is the function to use if `f a`

is a `Functor`

and `b -> a`

is the function to use if `f a`

is `Contravariant`

.

I may write another article about invariant functors if I feel the need for it, but in the meantime checkout these articles to get you started.

## Summary

Hopefully this has shed some light onto contravariant functors and how they are used and how they can be implemented. In a future article I hope to cover `Divisible`

and `Decidable`

typeclasses that build up from `Contravariant`

.

The source for this article can be found on Github.

A big “Thank You” to George Wilson for inspiring me to dig deeper into this topic with his excellent presentations on Functors.

A big thanks also to Andrew Newman who reviewed this article.

## Epilogue

Just when you thought you’d learned all there is to learn about variance, there appears to be a variance of the fourth kind. It’s known as phantom variance or bivariance as pointed by emilypii and dbramucci on reddit. dbramucci also linked to a nice Scala slidedeck from Michael Pilquist

## Links

### Articles

- Functor Optics - Oleg’s Gists
- 24 days of Hackage - Contravariant - Ocharles
- Covariance and Contravariance - FP Complete
- Understanding Contravariance - Type classes
- CO-LOG - Kowainik

### Video

- The Extended Functor Family - George Wilson
- Contravariant Functors - The Other Side of the Coin - George Wilson
- Fun with Profunctors - Phil Freeman
- A Fistful of Functors - Itamar Ravid

### Books

### Questions and Answers

- Looking for an abstraction to compose - Reddit
- datafunctorcontravariant some simple applications - Reddit
- The motivation behind Contravariant - Reddit

### Packages

## Definitions

#### Type constructor (1)

A data type that needs one or more type variables to be fully defined.

For example, `Maybe`

is a type constructor and `Maybe Int`

is a type.