Neat Genetic Programming: Controlling bloat naturally

Leonardo Trujillo, Luis Muñoz, Edgar Galván-López, Sara Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Bloat is one of the most widely studied phenomena in Genetic Programming (GP), it is normally defined as the increase in mean program size without a corresponding improvement in fitness. Several theories have been proposed in the specialized GP literature that explain why bloat occurs. In particular, the Crossover-Bias Theory states that the cause of bloat is that the distribution of program sizes during evolution is skewed in a way that encourages bloat to appear, by punishing small individuals and favoring larger ones. Therefore, several bloat control methods have been proposed that attempt to explicitly control the size distribution of programs within the evolving population. This work proposes a new bloat control method called neat-GP, that implicitly shapes the program size distribution during a GP run. neat-GP is based on two key elements: (a) the NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies algorithm (NEAT), a robust heuristic that was originally developed to evolve neural networks; and (b) the Flat Operator Equalization bloat control method, that explicitly shapes the program size distributions toward a uniform or flat shape. Experimental results are encouraging in two domains, symbolic regression and classification of real-world data. neat-GP can curtail the effects of bloat without sacrificing performance, outperforming both standard GP and the Flat-OE method, without incurring in the computational overhead reported by some state-of-the-art bloat control methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-43
Number of pages23
JournalInformation Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2016


  • Bloat
  • Flat operator equalization
  • Genetic programming
  • NeuroEvolution of augmenting topologies


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