Crab mentality

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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.[1][2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] Depending on the context, this tactic may fall under the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad invidiam, or appeal to envy.[6]

While the reason for crab mentality is thought to be jealousy, and a paucity of resources leading to perpetual competition, it also appears to be a behavioural trait indulged in despite people knowing it to be disadvantageous to them.[7][not in citation given]

In popular culture[edit]

Canadian hip hop artist k-os released a single entitled "Crabbuckit" from his 2004 album Joyful Rebellion. The song expresses his negative views of the music industry. The track would go on to win the 2005 Juno Award for 'Best Single of the Year'.

On The Aquabats album The Fury of The Aquabats! the song Lobster Bucket! describes this same phenomenon using lobsters as the euphemism.

The animated television show The Boondocks also references crab mentality in relation to Black American culture.[8]

In the HBO miniseries The Corner, character Gary observes crab mentality during his seasonal job at the crab market, and makes the connection to his own attempts to transcend the Baltimore ghetto where he lives. [9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Crab mentality –, Philippine News for Filipinos". 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  2. ^ "Dureza: The naughty PNoy". Sun.Star. 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  3. ^ My name is Tulfo (as told to Patricia Evangelista) | Inquirer Opinion
  4. ^ Crab Mentality Is Universal (January 19, 2010. Part 7 of the "In Defense of the Filipino" series.), (archived from the original on 2011-07-10)
  5. ^ "In Defense of Crab Mentality - Ka Larry Pelayo". Pinoy Watch Dog. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  6. ^ "Logical Fallacies". Constitution Society. 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2012-10-29. 
  7. ^ Sarangi, Sudipta. "Capturing Indian ‘crab’ behaviour". The Hindu - Business Line. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^