Aggregate Mode

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The statistical mode is the value that appears most often in a set of values.


Contents

Postgres 9.4 has built-in aggregate function mode()

The new ordered-set aggregate function supersedes the custom aggregate function below. More importantly, it also conflicts with it. To install it anyway, use a different name. Functionality is (almost) identical, but the new built-in function is much faster.

Subtle differences:

  • Like most built-in aggregate functions, NULL values are ignored. If the most common value is NULL, built-in mode() returns the second most common value.
  • The built-in mode() does not return an error if the expression is NULL in all rows. Returns NULL instead.

Usage

New syntax is different:

SELECT mode() WITHIN GROUP (ORDER BY some_value) AS modal_value FROM tbl;

See also

mode() for Postgres 9.3 or earlier (superseded in 9.4)

Snippets

Aggregate Mode

Works with PostgreSQL

Any version

Written in

SQL

Depends on

Nothing

PostgreSQL makes it easy to add custom aggregate functions. This snippet is also part of the ulib_agg user-defined library.

Conceptually the process will be to gather each value into an array. Then once all values are in the array, we will run a function to find the most common value in our array. Then you need to create a function to find the most common value in the array.

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION _final_mode(anyarray)
  RETURNS anyelement AS
$BODY$
    SELECT a
    FROM unnest($1) a
    GROUP BY 1 
    ORDER BY COUNT(1) DESC, 1
    LIMIT 1;
$BODY$
LANGUAGE SQL IMMUTABLE;
 
-- Tell Postgres how to use our aggregate
CREATE AGGREGATE mode(anyelement) (
  SFUNC=array_append, --Function to call for each row. Just builds the array
  STYPE=anyarray,
  FINALFUNC=_final_mode, --Function to call after everything has been added to array
  INITCOND='{}' --Initialize an empty array when starting
);

Usage

SELECT mode(some_value) AS modal_value FROM t;

Caution

Returns error if the argument is a column of NULL values.

If you are on PostgreSQL 8.3 or below you will need to add the unnest() function to convert an array to a set of rows.

See also

External links

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