Population-Based Incremental Learning is a population-based technique without an inspiration. It is related to the Genetic Algorithm and other Evolutionary Algorithms that are inspired by the biological theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

The information processing objective of the PBIL algorithm is to reduce the memory required by the genetic algorithm. This is done by reducing the population of a candidate solutions to a single prototype vector of attributes from which candidate solutions can be generated and assessed. Updates and mutation operators are also performed to the prototype vector, rather than the generated candidate solutions.

The Population-Based Incremental Learning algorithm maintains a real-valued prototype vector that represents the probability of each component being expressed in a candidate solution. The following algorithm provides a pseudocode listing of the Population-Based Incremental Learning algorithm for maximizing a cost function.

PBIL was designed to optimize the probability of components from low cardinality sets, such as bit’s in a binary string. The algorithm has a very small memory footprint (compared to some population-based evolutionary algorithms) given the compression of information into a single prototype vector. Extensions to PBIL have been proposed that extend the representation beyond sets to real-valued vectors.

Variants of PBIL that were proposed in the original paper include updating the prototype vector with more than one competitive candidate solution (such as an average of top candidate solutions), and moving the prototype vector away from the least competitive candidate solution each iteration. Low learning rates are preferred, such as 0.1.