Particle Swarm Optimisation for Feature Selection in Classification
Classification problems often have a large number of features, but not all of them are useful for classification. Irrelevant and redundant features may even reduce the classification accuracy. Feature selection is a process of selecting a subset of relevant features, which can decrease the dimensionality, shorten the running time, and/or improve the classification accuracy. There are two types of feature selection approaches, i.e. wrapper and filter approaches. Their main difference is that wrappers use a classification algorithm to evaluate the goodness of the features during the feature selection process while filters are independent of any classification algorithm. Feature selection is a difficult task because of feature interactions and the large search space. Existing feature selection methods suffer from different problems, such as stagnation in local optima and high computational cost. Evolutionary computation (EC) techniques are well-known global search algorithms. Particle swarm optimisation (PSO) is an EC technique that is computationally less expensive and can converge faster than other methods. PSO has been successfully applied to many areas, but its potential for feature selection has not been fully investigated. The overall goal of this thesis is to investigate and improve the capability of PSO for feature selection to select a smaller number of features and achieve similar or better classification performance than using all features. This thesis investigates the use of PSO for both wrapper and filter, and for both single objective and multi-objective feature selection, and also investigates the differences between wrappers and filters. This thesis proposes a new PSO based wrapper, single objective feature selection approach by developing new initialisation and updating mechanisms. The results show that by considering the number of features in the initialisation and updating procedures, the new algorithm can improve the classification performance, reduce the number of features and decrease computational time. This thesis develops the first PSO based wrapper multi-objective feature selection approach, which aims to maximise the classification accuracy and simultaneously minimise the number of features. The results show that the proposed multi-objective algorithm can obtain more and better feature subsets than single objective algorithms, and outperform other well-known EC based multi-objective feature selection algorithms. This thesis develops a filter, single objective feature selection approach based on PSO and information theory. Two measures are proposed to evaluate the relevance of the selected features based on each pair of features and a group of features, respectively. The results show that PSO and information based algorithms can successfully address feature selection tasks. The group based method achieves higher classification accuracies, but the pair based method is faster and selects smaller feature subsets. This thesis proposes the first PSO based multi-objective filter feature selection approach using information based measures. This work is also the first work using other two well-known multi-objective EC algorithms in filter feature selection, which are also used to compare the performance of the PSO based approach. The results show that the PSO based multiobjective filter approach can successfully address feature selection problems, outperform single objective filter algorithms and achieve better classification performance than other multi-objective algorithms. This thesis investigates the difference between wrapper and filter approaches in terms of the classification performance and computational time, and also examines the generality of wrappers. The results show that wrappers generally achieve better or similar classification performance than filters, but do not always need longer computational time than filters. The results also show that wrappers built with simple classification algorithms can be general to other classification algorithms.