The performance of a multi-objective evolutionary algorithm (MOEA) is in most cases measured in terms of the populations’ approximation quality in objective space. As a consequence, most MOEAs focus on such approximations while neglecting the distribution of the individuals of their populations in decision space. This, however, represents a potential shortcoming in certain applications as in many cases one can obtain the same or very similar qualities (measured in objective space) in several ways (measured in decision space). Hence, a high diversity in decision space may represent valuable information for the decision maker for the realization of a given project. In this paper, we propose the Variation Rate, a heuristic selection strategy that aims to maintain diversity both in decision and objective space. The core of this strategy is the proper combination of the averaged distance applied in variable space together with the diversity mechanism in objective space that is used within a chosen MOEA. To show the applicability of the method, we propose the resulting selection strategies for some of the most representative state-of-the-art MOEAs and show numerical results on several benchmark problems. The results demonstrate that the consideration of the Variation Rate can greatly enhance the diversity in decision space for all considered algorithms and problems without a significant loss in the approximation qualities in objective space.
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