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 sometimes claimed to be 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, although this is not the behavior being exhibited by the crabs which are simply trying to escape themselves, without any knowledge or understanding of the supposed "success" of their fellow creatures.

This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality.[3] The impact of Crab Mentality on performance was first quantified by a New Zealand study in 2015 which demonstrated up to an 18% average exam result improvement for students when their grades were reported in a way that prevented others from knowing their position in published rankings.[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 claimed to be jealousy, and a behavioural trait indulged in despite people knowing it to be disadvantageous to them, it can also arise from a paucity of resources leading to perpetual competition.[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.

Referenced in the song "Murder to Excellence" on "Watch The Throne" by Jay-Z and Kanye West. [8]

The animated television show The Boondocks also references crab mentality in relation to Black American culture.[9]

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. [10]

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. ^ 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)
  4. ^ Spacey, S. 2015. Crab Mentality, Cyberbullying and "Name and Shame" Rankings. In Press, Waikato University, New Zealand. Retrieved on April 19th, 2015.
  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. 
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