Is there a straightforward way to characterise the number of inversions in an array of length N having distinct elements, each element an integer from 1 to N?

It's for a constraint optimization problem, where the number of inversions needs to be minimized.

  • $\begingroup$ In order to avoid the XY problem, it should be helpful to explain that constraint optimization problem. Or, at least, provide an accessible reference to the problem. $\endgroup$
    – John L.
    Apr 26, 2019 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


You can count inversions efficiently by adapting mergesort, but the most intuitive way is to just count all pairs:

$$\text{inv}(A) = \sum_{i=1}^{|A|}\sum_{j=i+1}^{|A|}[A_j<A_i]$$

Where $[A_j < A_i] = 1$ when $A_j < A_i$ and $0$ otherwise.


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