Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Evolutionary Computation for Feature Selection in Classification

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Version 2 2023-09-26, 01:35
Version 1 2021-12-07, 07:10
posted on 2023-09-26, 01:35 authored by Hoai NguyenHoai Nguyen

Classification aims to identify a class label of an instance according to the information from its characteristics or features. Unfortunately, many classification problems have a large feature set containing irrelevant and redundant features, which reduce the classification performance. In order to address the above problem, feature selection is proposed to select a small subset of relevant features. There are three main types of feature selection methods, i.e. wrapper, embedded and filter approaches. Wrappers use a classification algorithm to evaluate candidate feature subsets. In embedded approaches, the selection process is embedded in the training process of a classification algorithm. Different from the other two approaches, filters do not involve any classification algorithm during the selection process. Feature selection is an important process but it is not an easy task due to its large search space and complex feature interactions. Because of the potential global search ability, Evolutionary Computation (EC), especially Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO), has been widely and successfully applied to feature selection. However, there is potential to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of EC-based feature selection.  The overall goal of this thesis is to investigate and improve the capability of EC for feature selection to select small feature subsets while maintaining or even improving the classification performance compared to using all features. Different aspects of feature selection are considered in this thesis such as the number of objectives (single-objective/multi-objective), the fitness function (filter/wrapper), and the searching mechanism.  This thesis introduces a new fitness function based on mutual information which is calculated by an estimation approach instead of the traditional counting approach. Results show that the estimation approach works well on both continuous and discrete data. More importantly, mutual information calculated by the estimation approach can capture feature interactions better than the traditional counting approach.  This thesis develops a novel binary PSO algorithm, which is the first work to redefine some core concepts of PSO such as velocity and momentum to suit the characteristics of binary search spaces. Experimental results show that the proposed binary PSO algorithm evolve better solutions than other binary EC algorithms when the search spaces are large and complex. Specifically, on feature selection, the proposed binary PSO algorithm can select smaller feature subsets with similar or better classification accuracies, especially when there are a large number of features.  This thesis proposes surrogate models for wrapper-based feature selection. The surrogate models use surrogate training sets which are subsets of informative instances selected from the training set. Experimental results show that the proposed surrogate models assist PSO to reduce the computational cost while maintaining or even improving the classification performance compared to using only the original training set.  The thesis develops the first wrapper-based multi-objective feature selection algorithm using MOEA/D. A new decomposition strategy using multiple reference points for MOEA/D is designed, which can deal with different characteristics of multi-objective feature selection such as highly discontinuous Pareto fronts and complex relationships between objectives. The experimental results show that the proposed algorithm can evolve more diverse non-dominated sets than other multi-objective algorithms.   This thesis introduces the first PSO-based feature selection algorithm for transfer learning. In the proposed algorithm, the fitness function uses classification performance to reduce the differences between domains while maintaining the discriminative ability on the target domain. The experimental results show that the proposed algorithm can select feature subsets which achieve better classification performance than four state-of-the-art feature-based transfer learning algorithms.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Computer Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Engineering at Victoria

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Engineering and Computer Science


Xue, Bing; Andreae, Peter; Zhang, Mengjie