Crab mentality

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Live crabs in a bucket

Crab mentality, also known as crabs in a bucket (also barrel, basket, or pot) mentality, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you".[1] It is also described as a desire to outdo or surpass another - usually a member of the same community or ethnic group - at the other's expense.[2]

The metaphor is derived from a pattern of behavior noted in crabs when they are trapped in a bucket. While any one crab could easily escape,[3] its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group's collective demise.[4][5][6]

The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress.[7][8][9] It is also associated with the phenomenon of internalized oppression when it exists with colonial mentality.[10]

Impact on performance[edit]

Crab mentality affects performance in an organization as humans behave in similar manner as the crabs particularly within social teams.[11] The impact of crab mentality on performance was 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.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ L. Douglas Wilder (October 1, 2015). Son of Virginia: A Life in America's Political Arena. Lyons Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-4930-1952-6.
  2. ^ Nadal, Kevin L. (2011-03-23). Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118019771.
  3. ^ Low Robin Boon Peng (2016). Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Why We Fail At Helping Others. World Scientific. p. 104. ISBN 978-981-320-059-3.
  4. ^ Sudipta Sarangi (April 1, 2013). "Capturing Indian 'Crab' Behaviour". The Hindu. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  5. ^ Massie Santos Ballon (May 14, 2010). "Crab Mentality". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on September 25, 2013.
  6. ^ Miller, Carliss D. (January 2015). "A Phenomenological Analysis of the Crabs in the Barrel Syndrome". Academy of Management Proceedings. Academy of Management. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.2015.13710abstract. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  7. ^ Manuel B. Dy (March 3, 1994). Values in Philippine Culture and Education. Council for Research in Values and Philosophy. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-56518-041-3.
  8. ^ Herbert A. Leibowitz (December 31, 1994). Parnassus: Twenty Years of Poetry in Review. University of Michigan Press. p. 262. ISBN 0-472-06577-7.
  9. ^ Albert Shanker (June 19, 1994). "Where We Stand: The Crab Bucket Syndrome". The New York Times. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  10. ^ David, E. J. R. (2013). Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino / American Postcolonial Psychology. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 9781623962098.
  11. ^ Dietrich, David M.; Kenworthy, Michael; Cudney, Elizabeth A. (2019). Additive Manufacturing Change Management: Best Practices. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 44. ISBN 9780367152079.
  12. ^ Spacey, S. 2015. Crab Mentality, Cyberbullying and "Name and Shame" Rankings. In Press, Waikato University, New Zealand. Retrieved on April 19th, 2015.