Population diversity and inheritance in genetic programming for symbolic regression

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In this work we aim to empirically characterize two important dynamical aspects of GP search: the evolution of diversity and the propagation of inheritance patterns. Diversity is calculated at the genotypic and phenotypic levels using efficient similarity metrics. Inheritance information is obtained via a full genealogical record of evolution as a directed acyclic graph and a set of methods for extracting relevant patterns. Advances in processing power enable our approach to handle previously infeasible graph sizes of millions of arcs and vertices. To enable a more comprehensive analysis we employ three closely-related but different evolutionary models: canonical GP, offspring selection and age-layered population structure. Our analysis reveals that a relatively small number of ancestors are responsible for producing the majority of descendants in later generations, leading to diversity loss. We show empirically across a selection of five benchmark problems that each configuration is characterized by different rates of diversity loss and different inheritance patterns, in support of the idea that each new problem may require a unique approach to solve optimally.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNatural Computing
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • Evolutionary algorithm
  • Explainable AI
  • Genetic programming
  • Optimization algorithm
  • Supervised learning
  • Symbolic regression


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