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 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.
Impact on performance
This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. 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.
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.
While the reason for crab mentality is claimed to be envy, and a behavioral 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.[not in citation given]
- The Dog in the Manger
- Prisoner's dilemma
- Allegory of the long spoons
- Law of Jante
- Terror management theory
- Tall poppy syndrome
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