Incels 30 times more likely to be autistic, study finds

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ASPartOfMe
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15 Feb 2024, 9:24 am

The Telegraph

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A link has been found between men who identify as being an “incel” and being autistic, in a major study.

They were found to be up to 30 times more likely to be autistic than the general population, according to the study published by the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), which advises ministers.

There has been some previous evidence suggesting a higher rate of autism among mass killers including Elliot Rodger, the incel murderer, who shot and stabbed six people to death, and among teenagers referred to the UK’s counter-terrorism Prevent programme.

The CCE study of 561 incels, by three leading academics, is the first to use clinical measures to assess levels of autism and provide hard evidence of a link based on questionnaires and psychological assessments.

It found that 30 per cent of them were at a level of autism where they should be referred to doctors for a medical diagnosis to establish their condition. That is around 30 times the rate of one in 100 in the general population who are on the autism spectrum.

Extremely poor mental health
The researchers, led by criminologist Joe Whittaker of Swansea University, found that the incels they surveyed also suffered from “extremely poor” mental health with a high incidence of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Incels are estimated to number in the tens of thousands and have been behind terror attacks that have claimed 59 lives in the past decade.

“There is some troubling evidence that ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) may be a correlate, but not a cause, of extreme violent acts such as mass shootings like in the case of Elliot Rodger,” said the researchers.

Their study found a quarter (26 per cent) of their sample said they “sometimes” or “often” justified violence against people that incels perceived as causing harm.

Five per cent said it was “often” justified, and this subset was more likely to hold misogynistic views, feel discriminated against, have poorer mental health and a higher tendency to displace their aggression.

Because of their isolation, they often sought out fellow incels via encrypted anonymous social media platforms like 4chan or forums, where they could share grievances and develop strong social bonds.

Incels and the far Right
Many commentators have suggested a link between incels and the far Right but, using specialist research tools, the academics found that their sample was “slightly left of centre on average”.

However, those who held Right-wing views were more likely to agree that violence was “often” justified against people who threatened them.

The incels in the study acknowledged a “shared worldview” which included identifying feminists as a “primary enemy.” “Participants perceived high levels of victimhood, anger and misogyny,” said their report.

In an article for The Telegraph, Mr Whittaker said: “Radicalisation may require a ‘perfect storm’ of the right psychological predispositions and conditions, the right ideology to take hold, and the right people to communicate with and inflame each other.

“It is unlikely that one, or even two of the factors, leads to problematic beliefs or behaviours, but if all three are present, it may be a cause for concern.”

Most of the incels in the study considered themselves middle or lower-middle class, and most had gone to college, university or done some post-school further education. Most were either living at home or renting.


Quote:
Joe Whittaker is a research fellow at ICCT and lecturer in cyber threats at Swansea University’s Department of Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy
Radicalization requires perfect storm and autism is one factor
Involuntary celibates have become something of a cultural cornerstone in recent years, particularly in the wake of three high-profile terrorist attacks in the US and Canada in 2018.

The word “incel” has entered popular vocabulary since these attacks and clear references to the subculture have been made in Hollywood films as diverse as Don’t Worry Darling and The Batman.

Often, the reaction when discussion turns to incels is to label them as women-hating losers who should be treated as a security threat. It is easy to see why people think this.

Anyone who has spent any time in incel spaces online knows that they are full of vile sexist comments, regularly justifying appalling or degrading acts. This view of incels, while understandable, misses an important component of inceldom.

Alongside my colleagues William Costello and Andrew Thomas at University of Texas, Austin and Swansea University respectively, I have conducted a survey of 561 self-professed incels – the largest survey of the online subculture to date. We wanted to understand their psychological experiences, their adherence to incel ‘ideology’, and the ways in which they communicated with like-minded people.

Our starkest finding is that incels suffer from exceptionally poor mental health. When measured by the PHQ-9 questionnaire used by the NHS, just over 40 per cent received a score which would suggest “moderately severe” depression or higher. Around one in five (20 per cent) said that they had suicidal thoughts on a daily basis. They also had extremely high levels of anxiety; four in ten hit the threshold for a medical referral. In this group, those who had poor mental health were more likely to adhere to an incel worldview.

The incels in our study showed high levels of neurodiversity. When given an autism screening questionnaire slightly more than three in ten scored high and hit the threshold for a specialist diagnostic assessment for autism. As around 80 per cent of people who are referred for this assessment are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, we can infer that around one in four of the incels studied (25 per cent) are autistic. The rate of autism in the general public is estimated to be around 1 per cent. Autism may have a direct relationship to incel ideology; it is a common trope on incel forums to blame their neurodiversity for their lack of success finding a partner.

Neurodiversity does not cause radicalisation
It is important to stress that neither poor mental health nor neurodiversity causes radicalisation, and it is not an excuse for anything that incels say or do. However, they play an important role when we statistically predict certain types of problematic attitudes (such as the justification of violence, hostile sexism, acceptance of rape myths, and revenge planning). Poor mental health, adherence to the incel worldview, and communication with other incels all predict these harmful attitudes, demonstrating a complex relationship.

To put this more simply, radicalisation may require a “perfect storm” of the right psychological predispositions and conditions, the right ideology to take hold, and the right people to communicate with and inflame each other. This is what Psychologist Arie Kruglanski has called the “3Ns” of radicalisation: Needs, Narrative, and Network. It is unlikely that one, or even two of the factors lead to problematic beliefs or behaviours, but if all three are present, it may be a cause for concern.

We also found that there was a strong relationship between incel’s mental health and their adherence to a shared worldview. They believed that the dating market was rigged against them because the vast majority of women were interested in only the most attractive, rich, and high-status men. They think they were discriminated against by society and that their biggest enemies were feminists and the political Left. However, poor mental health predicted these beliefs, suggesting that the two operate in tandem and exacerbate each other, and leading to the formation of harmful attitudes.

These findings offer a window for thinking about how we intervene when incels display problematic attitudes. Currently, incels are included in the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Prevent Strategy, making up around 1 per cent of referrals. Our findings suggest social care provision and effective mental health programmes may be the best method of intervention, but it is vital that counter-terrorism practitioners also have a robust knowledge of mental health and neurodiversity.

It is not merely enough to challenge the incel worldview, but rather we must understand and tackle the factors that help it to take root.


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15 Feb 2024, 5:29 pm

A link between involuntary celibacy among men and autism - who would have thought? Pardon me being ironic. Of course there are exceptions to any rule but I thought it was pretty obvious to every one that most males that identify as incels are autistic. The rest of the men with trouble getting laid probably suffer from social anxiety.


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15 Feb 2024, 7:00 pm

To me this is just flat out old news. :|


But then I'm an aroace female -- of course, what do I have in common with most assumably a whole group of heterosexual and heteromantic men?

Whatever.

I'm blaming the same source as to what made being aroace shameful -- I think it's the same with autistics being radical incels.
This advertisement around curing loneliness, single shaming, virgin shaming, 'human milestone' or whatever life purpose genetic success rhetoric around the idea of romantic and sexual relationships.


The main difference is that the former will much more likely find their identity and support -- against self-blame, against medicalization, against infantilization, and whatever negative autistic social stereotypes related to so called idea of 'being a human' or the whole idea of what made them a man or a woman.
But then what aroace contends is that we exists, too, not some broken version of allosexual alloromantic people.

The latter didn't. Seeing the history of the term, it was a support group gone twisted.
Their support now consists of echo chambers, self loathing and redirected blame.
Just vulnerability due to the implanted idea of whatever romantic, sexual and overall social-emotional unfulfillment and frustrations.
Made misogyny and hate really appealing and all that radicalization very resonant in their perception.
What they contend instead is the idea that they're undatable losers and sour grapes -- broken allosexuals alloromantics -- that they're indeed broken to a point of having an autism diagnosis as some sort of badge of honor. :roll:


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15 Feb 2024, 8:23 pm

Incel ideology has a lot of parallels to cults now that I think about it. Hmmm…. I guess it’s a human tendency to turn to communities centered around core beliefs when we are struggling or feel disenfranchised in some way, especially when those core beliefs seem to provide reasons and/or answers to our apparent problems.


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15 Feb 2024, 8:59 pm

Honestly, wholly unsuprising.


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15 Feb 2024, 9:35 pm

OK, let's turn this around. What percentage of men on the spectrum are considered incels???

That's more informative than red flagging 96% of all incels as autistic...


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15 Feb 2024, 11:24 pm

We need to separate the literally involuntary celibate, people who want to get laid but are unable from incels who combine a sense of entitlement, conspiracy thinking, and misogyny.

This is a catch-22. The incels further stigmatize the non incel who can't get laid making it even more difficult for them to get laid.

This stigma hurts all autistics and will if it has not already happened get us profiled.


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15 Feb 2024, 11:33 pm

I get it, all autistic people are mutated freaks of nature. Euthanasia against our will should be mandatory. :roll:



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15 Feb 2024, 11:40 pm

"Incels 30 times more likely to be autistic"?

Replace the word "autistic" with words like "homeless", "an ex-convict", "unemployed", and "just plain ugly" to see how that statistical value changes.


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15 Feb 2024, 11:50 pm

Incels are typically people who feel "othered" by society and blame women for them not getting laid. I personally can see how an autistic individual can easily get suckered into that ideology. We do tend to feel different, alienated, and have a harder time forming lasting connections. This is why I find the study results unsurprising.


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16 Feb 2024, 12:14 am

colliegrace wrote:
Incels are typically people who feel "othered" by society and blame women for them not getting laid. . .
A good working definition.

Rather than admit that the fault lies within themselves, they blame "society", and especially women.

Sucks to be them, I guess.


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16 Feb 2024, 7:43 am

I'm a scientist and an information professional in addition to ASD.

There is a pay-wall to read the article on the telegraph, so I cannot get the link to the research referenced by the article. I didn't see it in your post. That said, you gave us some clues. To start with, a survey of 561 people raises a data reliability flag.

Also, there seems to be some confusion between correlation and causality. "Incel" is a subculture of mostly young men who are hostile toward women. So, if a significant percentage of them are autistic, is this because they are autistic, or because a significant percentage of autistic men experience hostility from women? Or ... is there some third cause which predicts both?

Try this source instead. Go to the scientists, not the journalists.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10732311/

Note that it suggests a third factor in causality which, to me, rings true. It's a social response to the forum used by incels, a peculiar response to a particular social situation. Also note a key point, self-reported, in a forum where autism is frequently discussed.

Please forgive me for oversimplification, but very briefly ... hopelessness brings young men to seek comfort for involuntary celibacy. From there, social pressure to conform in a public forum explains a lot more.

I advise an objective eye and conclusions I would be willing to abandon in light of better evidence.



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16 Feb 2024, 7:56 am

While the association with autism and celibacy is true, I don’t think anyone is going to dispute that.

Problem is the term incel has negative and dangerous associations like violence against women and society.

How long before the association with autism incel then school shootings for example


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16 Feb 2024, 8:09 am

these articles lead toward some assumptions being made or lumping together the old posts about potential for autistic individuals to be violent criminals... so the rest of autistic folks get painted with the same brush, as in all the other misinformation, disinformation about autism. I don't like the tone or the potential, plus the small number studies are usually just as unreliable. What seems to be the same in all mass killings reported is that the folks doing this have shown troubled pasts and obvious mental illness. People around them know about their tendencies and their desperate behavior in almost every case. Mental illness is at the bottom of mass murder. That is what mass murderers have in common, and that is the gorilla in the living room of society which is being ignored.


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16 Feb 2024, 10:02 am

The article isn’t saying that all autistics are incels. Based on my experience on WP over the years concerning members who typically get banned, it does appear as though a disproportionate number of incels (the misogynistic variety) are autistic so I wouldn’t be surprised if the research points to that. However, it seems likely that people who use online forums could be more inclined to be a part of other online…communities. In any case, I think it IS a correlation-does-not-equal-causation thing, and it’s a shame that autistics are being painted in a bad light yet again.

Given the connotations of the word, I don’t think most people use the term “incel” when thinking about or referring to people who are just single but don’t want to be.


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26 Feb 2024, 1:13 pm

TwilightPrincess wrote:
The article isn’t saying that all autistics are incels. Based on my experience on WP over the years concerning members who typically get banned, it does appear as though a disproportionate number of incels (the misogynistic variety) are autistic so I wouldn’t be surprised if the research points to that.


What does misogynist variety even mean? Knowing you're systemically rejected by a group of people, is defacto gonna mean you're gonna be resentful.

Not saying resentment is at all useful or moral.

But the idea that people should be passive about rejection is just absurd.

A key issue with incel bitterness is denial of the problem or the intricacies of the problem. Women are fundamentally different from men in how they select mates/partners.

If you don't want to be an incel you have to see the world through the frame of gender.

The correct framing of gender is a delicate thing, and there's always people wanting to turn it into a warzone, but it isn't going away.

I never would have met my wife if I embraced left wing theory on gender.

TwilightPrincess wrote:
In any case, I think it IS a correlation-does-not-equal-causation thing,


And you're just obviously wrong on that front, obviously women reject autistic men in mass. This has never been an actual debate.

The why they are getting rejected is important, but the idea it isn't a constant/universal part of being a male on the spectrum is absurdity at its full force.

Something like 2/3rds of autistic men are involuntary incels. And I can promise you the 1/3rd who are not, understand the first step of getting into a relationship was figuring out why and how rejection is so universal.