In simple terms, mutation may be defined as a small random tweak in the chromosome, to get a new solution. It is used to maintain and introduce diversity in the genetic population and is usually applied with a low probability – pm. If the probability is very high, the GA gets reduced to a random search.
Mutation is the part of the GA which is related to the “exploration” of the search space. It has been observed that mutation is essential to the convergence of the GA while crossover is not.
In this section, we describe some of the most commonly used mutation operators. Like the crossover operators, this is not an exhaustive list and the GA designer might find a combination of these approaches or a problem-specific mutation operator more useful.
In this bit flip mutation, we select one or more random bits and flip them. This is used for binary encoded GAs.
Random Resetting is an extension of the bit flip for the integer representation. In this, a random value from the set of permissible values is assigned to a randomly chosen gene.
In swap mutation, we select two positions on the chromosome at random, and interchange the values. This is common in permutation based encodings.
Scramble mutation is also popular with permutation representations. In this, from the entire chromosome, a subset of genes is chosen and their values are scrambled or shuffled randomly.
In inversion mutation, we select a subset of genes like in scramble mutation, but instead of shuffling the subset, we merely invert the entire string in the subset.