Date of Award

Spring 2-13-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Shuki Cohen

Second Reader

Charles Stone

Third Advisor

Chitra Raghavan


This thesis examines the determinants of social media engagement with extremist views in general and misogynistic ones in particular. The study, which is a part of an ongoing, large-scale examination of online hate, examined posts from r/IncelTears, a sub-forum in the long-form social media Reddit dedicated to attacks on the Involuntary Celibate (‘Incel’) digital communities. Previous research on engagement – and by extension virality – of online posts has broadly implicated linguistic markers of affect, morality, extremism, and social identity. This exploratory study correlated metrics of online engagement such as the number of Upvotes and Comments that each post garnered with its content, as measured by the proportions of a variety of linguistic markers in the body of the post. To ensure reliability in the linguistic analyses, of the 986 posts that were published on the r/IncelTears Subreddit between 05/13/2020 and 06/05/2020 only 438 posts that exceeded 100 words were included in our final analysis.

Our findings largely concur with previous research concerning the key role that (negative) affectivity and (indignant) morality, as well as ingroup/outgroup 'tribalism' markers play in driving the users’ public reactions to online posts. Additionally, the current study revealed linguistic markers that differentiate – at times substantially – between low-level engagement (e.g. Upvotes) and high-level engagement (e.g. Comments). Novel, or minimally-studied linguistic drivers of engagement were also identified, including the use of pseudo-scientific language (e.g. the use of words over 6 letters, comparison words, and references to biology and females).

The current study, which is a part of a larger endeavor to understand the online hate ecosystem, is based on a snapshot of less than a month-worth of posts in one of the most prolific cross-platform online hate causes. Further research is needed to further elucidate the linguistic ‘hot buttons’ that drive engagement with hate speech, to prioritize their subjective salience and import, and ultimately to construct effective online counter-messaging or de-escalation campaigns to mitigate this ubiquitous problem.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.