Specializing Context-Free Grammars with a (1+1)-EA




Luca Manzoni, Alberto Bartoli, Mauro Castelli, Ivo Gonçalves, Eric Medvet


IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation (TEVC)
(rank Q1 in Software)



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Abstract #

Context-free grammars are useful tools for modeling the solution space of problems that can be solved by optimization algorithms. For a given solution space, there exists an infinite number of grammars defining that space, and there are clues that changing the grammar may impact the effectiveness of the optimization. In this paper, we investigate theoretically and experimentally the possibility of specializing a grammar in a problem, that is, of systematically improving the quality of the grammar for the given problem. To this end, we define the quality of a grammar for a problem in terms of the average fitness of the candidate solutions generated using that grammar. Theoretically, we demonstrate the following findings: (a) that a simple mutation operator employed in a (1+1)-EA setting can be used to specialize a grammar in a problem without changing the solution space defined by the grammar; and (b) that three grammars of equal quality for a grammar-based version of the OneMax problem greatly vary in how they can be specialized with that (1+1)-EA, as the expected time required to obtain the same improvement in quality can vary exponentially among grammars. Then, experimentally, we validate the theoretical findings and extend them to other problems, grammars, and a more general version of the mutation operator.