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Date:   Thu, 1 May 2003 17:01:56 -0400
Reply-To:   Richard Ristow <>
Sender:   "SPSSX(r) Discussion" <SPSSX-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From:   Richard Ristow <>
Subject:   Re: Recoding missing values
In-Reply-To:   <>
Content-Type:   text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed

At 09:01 AM 5/1/2003 -0400, Nancy Crowell wrote:

>I have a variable with missing values that I want to set as equal to >another variable (that has the correct values). [...] I've tried the >following: > >DO IF (cesdtot2=$sysmis). >Compute cesdtot2=dcesdtot. >END IF. >EXECUTE. > >I don't get any error messages, but nothing happens.

and, at 01:19 PM 5/1/2003 -0400, wrote:

>Eddy Oppordoes solved my problem: >IF (MISSING(cesdtot2)) cesdtot2=dcesdtot. >It worked like a charm.

Exactly. But this is an example of how tricky SPSS's test logic can be. It's a carefully done but subtle decision, to distinguish MISSING test results from NEGATIVE test results.

The test "(cesdtot2=$sysmis)" cannot return TRUE or FALSE, ever. It's comparing something to a 'missing' quantity ($sysmis), and even if the value of cesdtot2 is system-missing, SPSS doesn't consider them equal, but indeterminable: two different, unknown quantities.

That, of course, is why the test functions MISSING() and SYSMIS() are provided. Also, you can use VALUE(), which returns the variable's value as a valid quantity, if it is user-missing (but not if it is system-missing).

But the logic *is* tricky to remember; it's not intuitive that system-missing is not equal to itself! To make this harder (and SPSS may have been wrong, here),

If *any* test in a DO IF/ELSE IF chain returns MISSING, that and all subsequent clauses are skipped *WITH NO MESSAGE*. Useful alternatives would be

. At least an option to give an error message when a test evaluates to "missing" . A "MISSING" statement, analogous to "ELSE", that in a DO IF construct would evaluate 'true' if a previous test evaluated 'missing'.

In the meantime, it is wise start most DO IF constructs with tests for MISSING() or SYSMIS() that ensure subsequent clauses see only valid data.

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