Crab mentality

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A number of crabs in a bucket

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 negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy or competitive feelings.

Impact on performance[edit]

This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality.[3]

A study in New Zealand in 2015 was the first to quantify the impact of crab mentality on educational performance. It concluded that students perform up to 18% better on average when their grades are not revealed to other students.[4] The study itself was inspired by a case where a lecturer at Waikato University was cyberbullied through fake websites, digitally altered photographs, the university newspaper, e-mails, Facebook and social media forums with the university apparently claiming the legal defence that the lecturer deserved the cyberbullying because he disclosed his higher than average academic achievements when the case was registered with the employment authority in New Zealand[5][6] (see also the case discussion on the OpenPAT page).

See also[edit]