Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, is a phrase that describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you." The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.
This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to improve their socioeconomic situations, but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.
The popularity of the phrase has made accusing opponents of crab mentality a common form of defense against criticism, whether the criticism is valid or not. Depending on the context, this tactic may fall under the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad invidiam, or appeal to envy.
- The Dog in the Manger
- Prisoner's dilemma
- Allegory of the long spoons
- Tall poppy syndrome
- Law of Jante
- Terror management theory
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