Feature selection is one of the main data preprocessing steps in machine learning. Its goal is to reduce the number of features by removing extra and noisy features. Feature selection methods must consider the accuracy of classification algorithms while performing feature reduction on a dataset. Meta-heuristic algorithms are the most successful and promising methods for solving this issue. The symbiotic organisms search algorithm is one of the successful meta-heuristic algorithms which is inspired by the interaction of organisms in the nature called Parasitism Commensalism Mutualism. In this paper, three engulfing binary methods based on the symbiotic organisms search algorithm are presented for solving the feature selection problem. In the first and second methods, several S-shaped and V-shaped transfer functions are used for binarizing the symbiotic organisms search algorithm, respectively. These methods are called BSOSS and BSOSV. In the third method, two new operators called BMP and BCP are presented for binarizing the symbiotic organisms search algorithm. This method is called EBSOS. The third approach presents an advanced binary version of the coexistence search algorithm with two new operators, BMP and BCP, to solve the feature selection problem, named EBSOS. The proposed methods are run on 18 standard UCI datasets and compared to base and important meta-heuristic algorithms. The test results show that the EBSOS method has the best performance among the three proposed approaches for binarization of the coexistence search algorithm. Finally, the proposed EBSOS approach was compared to other meta-heuristic methods including the genetic algorithm, binary bat algorithm, binary particle swarm algorithm, binary flower pollination algorithm, binary grey wolf algorithm, binary dragonfly algorithm, and binary chaotic crow search algorithm. The results of different experiments showed that the proposed EBSOS approach has better performance compared to other methods in terms of feature count and accuracy criteria. Furthermore, the proposed EBSOS approach was practically evaluated on spam email detection in particular. The results of this experiment also verified the performance of the proposed EBSOS approach. In addition, the proposed EBSOS approach is particularly combined with the classifiers including SVM, KNN, NB and MLP to evaluate this method performance in the detection of spam emails. The obtained results showed that the proposed EBSOS approach has significantly improved the accuracy and speed of all the classifiers in spam email detection.
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