# What Makes a Problem Hard for a Genetic Algorithm? Some Anomalous Results and Their Explanation

- Authors
- Journal
- Machine Learning 0885-6125
- Publisher
- Springer-Verlag
- Publication Date
- Disciplines

## Abstract

What makes a problem easy or hard for a genetic algorithm (GA)? This question has become increasingly important as people have tried to apply the GA to ever more diverse types of problems. Much previous work on this question has studied the relationship between GA performance and the structure of a given fitness function when it is expressed as a Walsh polynomial. The work of Bethke, Goldberg, and others has produced certain theoretical results about this relationship. In this article we review these theoretical results, and then discuss a number of seemingly anomalous experimental results reported by Tanese concerning the performance of the GA on a subclass of Walsh polynomials, some members of which were expected to be easy for the GA to optimize. Tanese found that the GA was poor at optimizing all functions in this subclass, that a partitioning of a single large population into a number of smaller independent populations seemed to improve performance, and that hillclimbing outperformed both the original and partitioned forms of the GA on these functions. These results seemed to contradict several commonly held expectations about GAs.

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