Abstract

The notion and characterisation of fitness landscapes has helped us understand the performance of heuristic algorithms on complex optimisation problems. Many practical problems, however, are constrained, and when significant areas of the search space are infeasible, researchers have intuitively resorted to a variety of constraint-handling techniques intended to help the algorithm manoeuvre through infeasible areas and toward feasible regions of better fitness. It is clear that providing constraint-related feedback to the algorithm to influence its choice of solutions overlays the violation landscape with the fitness landscape in unpredictable ways whose effects on the algorithm cannot be directly measured. In this work, we apply metrics of violation landscapes to continuous and combinatorial problems to characterise them. We relate this information to the relative performance of six well-known constraint-handling techniques to demonstrate how some properties of constrained landscapes favour particular constraint-handling approaches. For the problems with sampled feasible solutions, a bi-objective approach was the best performing approach overall, but other techniques performed better on problems with the most disjoint feasible areas. For the problems with no measurable feasibility, a feasibility ranking approach was the best performing approach overall, but other techniques performed better when the correlation between fitness values and the level of constraint violation was high.

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