Abstract : In this paper, we study the exploration / exploitation trade-off in cellular genetic algorithms. We define a new selection scheme, the centric selection, which is tunable and allows controlling the selective pressure with a single parameter. The equilibrium model is used to study the influence of the centric selection on the selective pressure and a new model which takes into account problem dependent statistics and selective pressure in order to deal with the exploration / exploitation trade-off is proposed: the punctuated equilibria model. Performances on the quadratic assignment problem and NK-Landscapes put in evidence an optimal exploration / exploitation trade-off on both of the classes of problems. The punctuated equilibria model is used to explain these results.