The personality traits associated with “incels” are linked to several psychopathological issues, according to new research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
An “incel” (or involuntary celibate) refers to a member of an online subculture of individuals who feel deprived of meaningful companionship and sex. Many of these individuals resent women for rejecting them romantically and sexually. Unfortunately, some individuals within this subculture have even turned to violence. Although many people are quick to condemn incels for their misogynistic views, understanding the complexities behind this growing subculture could help to prevent future harms.
“I began to study this topic together with my colleague, Professor Lilybeth Fontanesi. Our interest regarded the possible psychological explanations of extreme misogyny in the contemporary phenomenon of incel,” said study author Giacomo Ciocca, a professor of clinical psychology at Sapienza University of Rome.
The researchers used the online platform Qualtrics to survey a sample of 770 male participants. The survey included an assessment known as the “incel” trait scale. The participants were shown a list of 20 traits and asked to indicate which described them. The traits included characteristics such as excluded, scorned, unattractive, defeated, hateful, and resentful.
Ciocca and his colleagues found that those who scored higher on the “incel” trait scale tended to also score high on measures of paranoia, anxiety, and depression. In addition, the “incel” traits were associated with a fearful attachment style. In other words, those who scored higher on the scale were more likely to agree with the statement “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.”
According to Ciocca, the findings indicate “that incel people struggle with their condition, and they feel that women are responsible for that. They are suffering, but incapable to change their situation so they blame others. The violence comes from there, from resentment. Once again, emotional education and psychological counselling should be promoted in schools as preventive programs.”
“Specific psychological and psychopathological traits characterize incels. Paranoid ideation, depression and insecure relational patterns can be considered predictive factors for an ‘incel personality,'” he told PsyPost.
The findings are in line with a previous study, which found that incels tend to have reduced psychological well-being and exhibit a greater tendency for interpersonal victimhood.
“For these reasons, it is very important to pay attention to many social and psychological markers for violent behavior among incel males,” Ciocca said. “Health professional operators and psychologists should be trained to assess eventual deviant incel subjects.”
The study, “Psychopathology of incel (involuntary celibate): the predictive role of depression, paranoia, and fearful attachment style“, was authored by Giacomo Ciocca, Jessica Martinelli, Erika Limoncin, Andrea Sansone, Emmanuele A.Jannini, and Lilybeth Fontanesi.