I think the answer to this question lies in how python pass data to parameter (pass by value or by reference), not mutability or how python handle the “def” statement.
A brief introduction. First, there are two type of data types in python, one is simple elementary data type, like numbers, and another data type is objects. Second, when passing data to parameters, python pass elementary data type by value, i.e., make a local copy of the value to a local variable, but pass object by reference, i.e., pointers to the object.
Admitting the above two points, let’s explain what happened to the python code. It’s only because of passing by reference for objects, but has nothing to do with mutable/immutable, or arguably the fact that “def” statement is executed only once when it is defined.
 is an object, so python pass the reference of  to
a is only a pointer to  which lies in memory as an object. There is only one copy of  with, however, many references to it. For the first foo(), the list  is changed to 1 by append method. But Note that there is only one copy of the list object and this object now becomes 1. When running the second foo(), what effbot webpage says (items is not evaluated any more) is wrong.
a is evaluated to be the list object, although now the content of the object is 1. This is the effect of passing by reference! The result of foo(3) can be easily derived in the same way.
To further validate my answer, let’s take a look at two additional codes.
====== No. 2 ========
def foo(x, items=None):
if items is None:
items = 
foo(1) #return 
foo(2) #return 
foo(3) #return 
 is an object, so is
None (the former is mutable while the latter is immutable. But the mutability has nothing to do with the question). None is somewhere in the space but we know it’s there and there is only one copy of None there. So every time foo is invoked, items is evaluated (as opposed to some answer that it is only evaluated once) to be None, to be clear, the reference (or the address) of None. Then in the foo, item is changed to , i.e., points to another object which has a different address.
====== No. 3 =======
def foo(x, items=):
foo(1) # returns 
foo(2,) # returns 
foo(3) # returns [1,3]
The invocation of foo(1) make items point to a list object  with an address, say, 11111111. the content of the list is changed to 1 in the foo function in the sequel, but the address is not changed, still 11111111. Then foo(2,) is coming. Although the  in foo(2,) has the same content as the default parameter  when calling foo(1), their address are different! Since we provide the parameter explicitly,
items has to take the address of this new
, say 2222222, and return it after making some change. Now foo(3) is executed. since only
x is provided, items has to take its default value again. What’s the default value? It is set when defining the foo function: the list object located in 11111111. So the items is evaluated to be the address 11111111 having an element 1. The list located at 2222222 also contains one element 2, but it is not pointed by items any more. Consequently, An append of 3 will make
From the above explanations, we can see that the effbot webpage recommended in the accepted answer failed to give a relevant answer to this question. What is more, I think a point in the effbot webpage is wrong. I think the code regarding the UI.Button is correct:
for i in range(10):
print "clicked button", i
UI.Button("button %s" % i, callback)
Each button can hold a distinct callback function which will display different value of
i. I can provide an example to show this:
for i in range(10):
If we execute
x() we’ll get 7 as expected, and
x() will gives 9, another value of