Runtime Analysis of Non-elitist Populations: From Classical Optimisation to Partial Information

Duc Cuong Dang*, Per Kristian Lehre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Although widely applied in optimisation, relatively little has been proven rigorously about the role and behaviour of populations in randomised search processes. This paper presents a new method to prove upper bounds on the expected optimisation time of population-based randomised search heuristics that use non-elitist selection mechanisms and unary variation operators. Our results follow from a detailed drift analysis of the population dynamics in these heuristics. This analysis shows that the optimisation time depends on the relationship between the strength of the selective pressure and the degree of variation introduced by the variation operator. Given limited variation, a surprisingly weak selective pressure suffices to optimise many functions in expected polynomial time. We derive upper bounds on the expected optimisation time of non-elitist evolutionary algorithms (EA) using various selection mechanisms, including fitness proportionate selection. We show that EAs using fitness proportionate selection can optimise standard benchmark functions in expected polynomial time given a sufficiently low mutation rate. As a second contribution, we consider an optimisation scenario with partial information, where fitness values of solutions are only partially available. We prove that non-elitist EAs under a set of specific conditions can optimise benchmark functions in expected polynomial time, even when vanishingly little information about the fitness values of individual solutions or populations is available. To our knowledge, this is the first runtime analysis of randomised search heuristics under partial information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-461
Number of pages34
Issue number3
Early online date9 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Drift analysis
  • Evolutionary algorithms
  • Fitness-levels
  • Non-elitism
  • Partial evaluation
  • Runtime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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