By including this public figure on this wiki, we are not necessarily implying they are incel (involuntarily celibate) or are in any way associated with incels. Furthermore, with regards to any actual incels listed on this wiki, inceldom is a life circumstance, not an insult or a movement/community.
Menelaos Apostolou is one of the few academics doing modern, scientific research on incels, sometimes referring to them as, "involuntary singles".
In a 2018 peer-reviewed paper he concluded that motivated, conscientious, emotionally stable, extroverted individuals who cared about fashion, weight, hygiene, and grooming were top performers in mating (with attention to appearance only mattering for men, albeit weakly).
Poor mating success and wellbeing
Apostolou has found mating performance to be moderately related to overall affect in both sexes. Specifically, three times as many of those with low mating performance reported feeling negative emotions frequently compared to those in the high mating performance category. On the other hand, twice as many people in the high mating performance category reported feeling positive emotions frequently compared to those in the low mating performance category. In this study, as with his others, mating performance was measured via a self-report method that gauged people's perceptions of the level of difficulty they had in initiating and maintaining romantic relationships.
Predictors of poor mating performance
Apostolou has conducted several studies which attempt to discern the primary factors that predict mating performance in both sexes. One potential issue with much of his research in this domain is that the psychometric inventories he has developed to measure "mating performance" rely solely on subjective and self-report measures of mating performance. Thus, it is often unclear how people interpret the questions, as individual factors such as sexual entitlement, sex drive, mating effort, social comparison, choosiness and perhaps self-deception would influence the perception of these questions. However, other typical methods of measuring mating success, such as lifetime sexual partner count, are perhaps even more flawed. These measures do not consider individual differences in sexual strategies, the quality of the sexual partners and relations, the fact that some men exaggerate their partner count, and environmental factors independent of mate value that frequently determine access to sexual partners, such as location, social standing, etc.
Also, it is essential to note that none of his research has attempted to establish a clear cut-off in terms of the amount of time single for those who are "involuntary single," unlike the Donnelly study. Many of those he classifies as "involuntary single" have been recently sexually active. However, most of them would likely be considered incel under the 6-month definition used in the Donnelly study. This lack of focus on long-term celibates perhaps limits the application of his findings regarding people who have been single for a very long time. However, one could probably still extrapolate his results to that group to a degree, as such people may be simply particularly disadvantaged in dating in part due to possessing extreme levels of the traits Apostolou has found to negatively predict mating performance. Brian Gilmartin's work on love shyness does indeed indicate that many of these sorts of men lack flirting skills, cannot discern signals of interest from the opposite sex, are extremely shy, and so forth. Interestingly, Gilmartin also had a nascent awareness that one of the main causes of his "love shyness" was that these men were unadapted to a mating market that was reliant on individual effort, as he boldly proposed (voluntary) government arranged marriages as one potential solution to the love-shy issue.
What predicts poor mating performance
Keeping these caveats in mind, we can examine the extent of the influence of various factors that Apostolou has found to be associated with mating performance:
- Mating effort: Apostalou found mating performance to be linked to mating effort, more so in women than in men (a sex difference which is not surprising as his questionnaire in this study also partially measured choosiness and desire to remain single, together with men's typical high receptivity to any form of romantic advance from a woman).
This finding partly contradicts conclusions made in blackpilled communities that focus nearly entirely on external causes. However, correlation is not necessarily causation. For example, the propensity to put effort into mating may be partly out of one's control (e.g., genes and social factors that constrict mating effort).
There may be a Matthew effect at work where some incels are repeatedly getting discouraged due to frequent rejection and lack of mating success. This regular external negative reinforcement would lead to them putting less effort into mating. One of the questions in his mating-effort inventory did measure fatalistic attitudes to dating that were possibly borne from rejection ("It is a waste of time to make an eﬀort to start a romantic relationship).
Those with a genetic and social predisposition to mate with ease might find even more motivation to put effort into mating, boosting their mating effort. If the mating effort itself does predict mating success, this sexual success would be expected to further inspire people with high mating efforts sexual self-esteem, which would, in turn, spur further mating effort.
- Standards: It is often stated that many people are involuntarily celibate as they are "too choosy." In one of his studies, Apostolou found choosiness only predicted volceldom ("prefer to be single") but not incel (finding it difficult to attract a partner), suggesting that having high standards in a romantic partner does not have much impact on involuntary celibacy. This finding also shows that those with high standards are more likely to be voluntarily celibate.
It is also important to note that it is probable that a decent amount of these people who "prefer to be single" are not celibate, per Apostalou's prior research, which has found multiple pathways that predict singledom. These divergent pathways include difficulties in forming a relationship due to internal or external constraints together with the desire to remain romantically unattached, generally to maximize casual sexual encounters. Apostolou found there were weak effects for sex and personality in predicting this latter factor. Men and those low in agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to prefer to remain single for these reasons.
- Flirting capacity: Further, he found the main predictor of reported difficulties attracting a partner to be mainly flirting skill and, to a lesser degree, the capacity to perceive signals of interest from the opposite sex. Some of this can be explained by these two things overlapping significantly, as they correlated moderately with each other. Apostolou's prior research has also found that flirting skills and the capacity to perceive signals interact significantly. The mating performance of those with low flirting ability dropped more sharply than those with high ability when the capacity to perceive signals of interest decreased. A low level of both is perhaps most commonly found in people with disorders that negatively affect social cognition, such as high functioning autism.
As men are generally expected to initiate courtship, it is not surprising that his prior research that inadequate flirting capacity is more often reported as a driver of their singlehood by men. It is also unclear how decisive a factor flirting skills are in driving involuntary celibacy (as opposed to just difficulties with dating in general) per se, as previous research by Apostolou has found that flirting skills were not a significant predictor of self-reported problems with initiating a relationship. However, such skills were the main predictor of mating success in general among the personality traits he examined. In this study, only shyness and difficulty with perceiving signals of romantic success from potential partners predicted being more likely to report having problems with starting relationships. (Strong effect found for signal detection capability and moderate effect for shyness in this regard).
- Attention to looks: Apostolou found that "attention to looks" (basically putting a lot of effort into maintaining and enhancing one's physical appearance) only significantly (though weakly) predicted self-estimated mating performance for men. There was an interesting finding where the relationship between age, attention to looks, and mating success formed an inverted u-shape. That is, "Attention to looks" only predicts mating success among adults and not older people or younger adults. He has not examined the effect of third-party related looks on his measure of "mating success".
- Shyness: Apostolou has found shyness is a predictor of reported difficulties with initiating a relationship and poorer mating outcomes in general, with a moderate effect size (not broken down by sex).
Evolutionary mismatch hypothesis of poor dating success
Essentially, Apostolou presents evidence that a mix of general social skills, boldness, sexual charisma, and high mating effort would seem to be important in driving positive dating outcomes. As many people seem to lack these traits, this leads to an increased risk of singledom on their part, which is evolutionarily maladaptive. To explain why these seemingly maladaptive traits are so prevalent, Apostolou hypothesizes that many human phenotypes are adapted for arranged marriages, leading to an evolutionary mismatch. These phenotypes, which would not have had reduced fitness in the past, are now less adaptive (and possibly being selected against) due to social shifts towards greater individualism and social atomization that have effectively reduced mating to an individual affair, mainly due to industrialization and modernity.
This purported mismatch may also be a major factor in why certain ethnic groups, such as East Asians, are more prone to being involuntarily celibate. They had more stronger and more engrained traditions of arranged marriage than, say, Western countries, practices that are still reasonably strong in some Asian countries (though generally in a fashion that involves social pressure from parents and governments to marry).
A good test of this hypothesis would be to examine groups with strong traditions of arranged marriage and see if they are more likely to experience low mating success in contexts of random mate choice, controlling for potential confounding factors such as SES, physical attractiveness, racial preferences, and anything else that affects mating success.
Sample quotes from his research
It came with a positive coefficient, indicating that the more extraverted people were the higher their mating performance was. Neuroticism was significant for the overall mating performance and for keeping a relationship. The coefficient was negative, suggesting that the more neurotic people were, the lower their mating performance was. Also, conscientiousness was significant only for starting a relationship, and came with a positive coefficient suggesting that low scorers had more difficulties in starting a relationship.
There was a significant interaction between the sex and the attention to looks. More attention to looks was associated with higher mating performance for men, but for women attention to looks had no effect on mating performance. In addition, there was a significant interaction between the sex and the mating effort for starting a relationship. The higher the mating effort, the higher the mating performance, but the effect was more pronounced for women than for men. [...]
Moreover, we found that low mating effort was associated with low mating performance. The effect size was quite high, suggesting that the mating effort was a key predictor of mating performance. Future studies need to investigate this effect further and attempt to identify the factors which potentially predict mating effort.
A considerable proportion of the population is involuntarily single; that is, they want to be in an intimate relationship but they face difficulties in doing so. The current paper attempted to assess some possible predictors of this phenomenon. More specifically, in a sample of 1228 Greek-speaking women and men, we found that participants who scored low in flirting capacity, capacity to perceive signals of interest and mating effort, were more likely to be involuntarily single than in an intimate relationship, and experienced longer spells of single-hood. Mating effort had also a significant effect on voluntary singlehood, with low scorers being more likely to be in this category than high scorers. Choosiness had also a significant effect, but only on voluntary singlehood, with high scorers being more likely to prefer to be single than low scorers.
He is a professor at University of Nicosia, Cyprus. He was born in Athens, Greece and studied for a time in the UK.
- The challenge of starting and keeping a relationship: Prevalence rates and predictors of poor mating performance.
- Involuntary singlehood and its causes: The effects of flirting capacity, mating effort, choosiness and capacity to perceive signals of interest
- 'Are People Single by Choice? Involuntary Singlehood in an Evolutionary Perspective
Lectures and interviews
- https://www.researchgate.net/publication /313851502_Why_people_stay_single_An_evolutionary_perspective
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