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.
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.
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.
Difference from Tall Poppy Syndrome
In some countries such as New Zealand and Australia, crab mentality is often called tall poppy syndrome. However, some authors have recently highlighted that the phrases technically mean different things; with the term tall poppy syndrome coming from the story of the Roman king Tarquin referring to jealousy as a person of high achievement or ability (referred to as a "tall poppy") tries to protect their position by preventing competition from others and crab mentality referring to envy as people try to pull down those of higher achievement or ability in an area not necessarily wanting to take the higher position for themselves (see Spacey, 2015 for an example of this in modern academia).
- The Dog in the Manger
- Prisoner's dilemma
- Allegory of the long spoons
- Law of Jante
- Terror management theory
- Tall poppy syndrome
- "Crab mentality – INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos". Opinion.inquirer.net. 2010-05-14. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
- "Dureza: The naughty PNoy". Sun.Star. 2012-05-03. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
- "In Defense of Crab Mentality - Ka Larry Pelayo". Pinoy Watch Dog. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "Logical Fallacies". Constitution Society. 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- Crab Mentality Is Universal (January 19, 2010. Part 7 of the "In Defense of the Filipino" series.), http://emanila.com. (archived from the original on 2011-07-10)
- Spacey, S. 2015. Crab Mentality, Cyberbullying and "Name and Shame" Rankings. In Press, Waikato University, New Zealand. Retrieved on April 19th, 2015.
- Johnson, K. 2015. The NZ Tall Poppy Syndrome and Crabby Put-Downs
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