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Beyond Violent Extremism: A 3N Perspective of Inceldom


Self-described “involuntary celibates” (incels) have become more visible in recent years, in part due to high-profile acts of mass violence committed by self-professed incels. Recent academic scholarship and journalism have suggested that the self-described incels may pose a threat not only to others, but to themselves, as well. What is unique about incels among other groups of individuals described as violent extremists is the way that the ideology of inceldom—the “black pill”—provides different narratives that lead adherents to behave differently. This article employs a cluster analysis of self-described incels residing in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania (Cluster 1, n = 50; Cluster 2, n = 97; Cluster 3, n = 113) to examine inceldom in accordance with the 3N theory of radicalization. Incels can be characterized as having an amplified need for significance. By engaging online with incel forums, they find a network that validates their feelings and introduces them to an overarching ideology. The ideology provides a worldview that allows them to move from self-blame for their failures with women into anger and violence turned inward or outward. Incels respond to this ideology by aligning along three differing narratives that define the appropriate means for gaining significance: An externalizing narrative that promotes violence as a means of fighting back against a society they believe has condemned them to celibacy and loneliness, an internalizing narrative that promotes suicide as the only useful means of gaining control over the painfulness of rejection, and a hopeful narrative that focuses on the possibility of moving out of inceldom. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Impact Statement

This study finds that self-described “incels” should not be broadly labeled as violent extremists and can be classified according to whether or not they believe their situation is permanent, the extent of their suicidal ideation, and the extent of their violent ideation. This finding suggests individuals who are experiencing intense depressive symptoms and are not receiving support would be potentially receptive targets for early interventions that are sensitive to this community’s grievances. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

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Ellenberg, Molly, Anne Speckhard, Arie W. Kruglanski. 2023. "Beyond Violent Extremism: A 3N Perspective of Inceldom." Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication, June. https://doi.org/10.1037/men0000439

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