Recombination is a commonly used genetic operator in artificial and computational evolutionary systems. It has been empirically shown to be essential for evolutionary processes. However, little has been done to analyze the effects of recombination on quantitative genotypic and phenotypic properties. The majority of studies only consider mutation, mainly due to the more serious consequences of recombination in reorganizing entire genomes. Here we adopt methods from evolutionary biology to analyze a simple, yet representative, genetic programming method, linear genetic programming. We demonstrate that recombination has less disruptive effects on phenotype than mutation, that it accelerates novel phenotypic exploration, and that it particularly promotes robust phenotypes and evolves genotypic robustness and synergistic epistasis. Our results corroborate an explanation for the prevalence of recombination in complex living organisms, and helps elucidate a better understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms involved in the design of complex artificial evolutionary systems and intelligent algorithms.

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