Crab mentality, also known as crab theory,[1][2] crabs in a bucket[a] mentality, or the crab-bucket effect, is a way of thinking usually described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you".[3]

Live crabs in a bucket

The metaphor is derived from anecdotal claims about the behavior of crabs when they are trapped in a bucket: while any one crab can easily start to climb out,[4] it will nonetheless be pulled back in by the others, ensuring the group's collective demise.[5][6][7]

The analogous theory in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond others, out of envy, jealousy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, in order to halt their progress[8][9][10][11] even though there are no benefits associated.

Self-evaluation maintenance theory edit

At an emotional level, crab mentality can stem from a deep-seated human need for self-esteem and social comparison.[12] Tesser's self-evaluation maintenance theory (SEM)[13] suggests that individuals engage in self-evaluation not only through introspection but also through comparison with others, especially those within their close social circles. When someone close to us excels in areas we value, we might feel threatened and act in ways that downplay their achievements.[14] This mechanism can partly explain why individuals may attempt to pull down those who achieve more than themselves, as a way to protect their own self-esteem and social standing. For instance, consider two friends who are passionate about painting and regularly attend art classes together. They both take pride in their artistic abilities, but when one friend's artwork is selected for a prestigious local exhibition, the other might experience feelings of envy and a threat to their self-esteem. This friend might react by defaming the significance of the exhibition itself, suggesting that true artistic merit isn't captured by such events, thereby maintaining their self-esteem while "pulling back" his friend like crabs in a bucket. Emotions such as envy may be generated when individuals feel threatened during self-evaluation.[15] This can lead to a desire to diminish the well-being of others, particularly when their success highlights our own failures or inadequacies.[16]

Relative deprivation theory edit

Relative deprivation theory proposes that feelings of dissatisfaction and injustice arise when people compare their situation unfavorably with others' situations.[17] This sense of inequality, rooted in subjective perceptions rather than objective measures, can deeply influence social behavior,[18] including the phenomenon of crab mentality. When individuals see their peers achieving success or receiving the recognition they feel is undeserved or unattainable for themselves, it can trigger actions aimed at undermining these peers' accomplishments.[19] The concept emerged from a study of American soldiers by Stouffer. Soldiers in units with more promotions were paradoxically less satisfied, feeling left out if not promoted themselves, despite better odds of advancement.[20] This reflects how relative deprivation fuels dissatisfaction by comparing one's situation to others. By "dragging" others down to a similar level, individuals might feel a sense of satisfaction. Thus, crab mentality can be viewed as a response to perceived social inequality, where pulling others down becomes a strategy to cope with feelings of inadequacy or injustice.

Zero-sum bias edit

Zero-sum bias, where individuals perceive that they can only gain at the expense of others, may contribute to crab mentality.[21] This bias is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of success and resource distribution, leading to the incorrect belief that success and resources are limited and one person's gain is necessarily another's loss.[21] Such a worldview fosters competitive rather than collaborative social interactions, encouraging behaviors that aim at hindering others' achievements to protect one's perceived share of limited resources,[22] like crabs in a bucket. In Daniel V. Meegan's study, researchers found that students expected lower grades for peers after seeing many high grades already awarded, despite being in a system where high grades are unlimited.[21] This illustrates how people often view success as a limited resource. Thus, when they see their peers successfully "climbing out of the bucket", they may try to hinder their progress to ensure their own chances of success remain unchanged.

It's crucial to differentiate crab mentality from strategic competition, where actions are calculated for self-interest and personal gain.[23] People's rational behaviors are aimed directly at benefiting themselves.[23] Since it is driven by cognitive biases and emotions,[24] crab mentality is often a reactive, non-rational behavior that seeks to level the playing field by pulling others down, even though there are no direct benefits to the individual.

Cultural variations edit

Crab mentality showcases intriguing variations across cultures, each providing a unique lens through which to view this phenomenon. In the Philippines, the phrase crab mentality vividly captures people's tendency of dragging their peers down,[8] metaphorically speaking, to prevent them from escaping a fictional bucket. This perspective is mirrored in Australia and New Zealand through tall poppy syndrome,[25] where individuals who achieve notable success often find themselves targeted or criticized, reflecting a societal preference for equality over individual distinction. Scandinavian country's Law of Jante[26] takes a different but related approach to promote community values over personal achievements, suggesting a communal approach to success.

Applications edit

The concept of crab mentality has practical applications across various fields. In the workplace, recognizing crab mentality can help organizations develop strategies to foster a more collaborative culture and reduce counterproductive competition among employees. For instance, by promoting team-based rewards and recognizing collective achievements, companies can encourage teamwork and mutual support.[27] Employees' undermining behaviors can erode trust and cooperation among team members, leading to a toxic work environment. [28] In educational environments, awareness of crab mentality can guide interventions aimed at promoting a growth mindset[29] among students, where success is seen as achievable for all through effort and cooperation, and that it is not limited as in a zero-sum game. Community development efforts can also benefit from understanding crab mentality, particularly in designing programs that aim for collective efficacy.[30] By addressing underlying conflicts and competition, such initiatives can encourage a more cooperative spirit, ensuring that the success of one member is celebrated as a collective achievement rather than individual success. According to a study by Robert J. Sampson, Stephen W. Raudenbush, and Felton Earls, community solidarity can lead to positive outcomes such as a reduction in violence.[30] In essence, the "crabs in the basket" should be told they can all "escape" if they work together, and pulling others down will bring nothing but conflicts and struggles.

Note edit

  1. ^ Instead of bucket - barrel, basket, or pot are all also commonly used.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Mae Lentz, Ella (2006). "The Crab Theory Revisited". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2020-11-27. Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  2. ^ Henry, Elizabeth. "FAQ: Crab Theory". LibGuides.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Sudipta Sarangi (April 1, 2013). "Capturing Indian 'Crab' Behaviour". The Hindu. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  6. ^ Miller, Carliss D. (January 2015). "A Phenomenological Analysis of the Crabs in the Barrel Syndrome". Academy of Management Proceedings. 2015 (1): 13710. doi:10.5465/AMBPP.2015.13710abstract.
  7. ^ Adams, Frank Patrick (December 2019). Does the Crab Theory Hold Water? Investigating Intragroup Discriminatory Attitudes within the Deaf Community (PDF) (PhD). Gallaudet University. OCLC 1226710162. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  8. ^ a b 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.
  9. ^ Herbert A. Leibowitz (December 31, 1994). Parnassus: Twenty Years of Poetry in Review. University of Michigan Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-472-06577-6.
  10. ^ Albert Shanker (June 19, 1994). "Where We Stand: The Crab Bucket Syndrome". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 20, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  11. ^ David, E. J. R. (2013). Brown Skin, White Minds: Filipino / American Postcolonial Psychology. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-62396-209-8.
  12. ^ PhD, Jerry Peres de Tagle; rciriacruz (2021-01-07). "Crab mentality – where does it come from?". USA. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  13. ^ Tesser, Abraham (1988-01-01), "Toward a Self-Evaluation Maintenance Model of Social Behavior", in Berkowitz, Leonard (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology Volume 21, vol. 21, Academic Press, pp. 181–227, doi:10.1016/s0065-2601(08)60227-0, ISBN 978-0-12-015221-6, retrieved 2024-03-17
  14. ^ Beach, Steven R. H.; Tesser, Abraham (1995), Kernis, Michael H. (ed.), "Self-Esteem and the Extended Self-Evaluation Maintenance Model", Efficacy, Agency, and Self-Esteem, Boston, MA: Springer US, pp. 145–170, doi:10.1007/978-1-4899-1280-0_8, ISBN 978-1-4899-1280-0, retrieved 2024-03-19
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  16. ^ Smith, Richard H.; Kim, Sung Hee (2007). "Comprehending envy". Psychological Bulletin. 133 (1): 46–64. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.46. ISSN 1939-1455. PMID 17201570.
  17. ^ Walker, Iain; Pettigrew, Thomas F. (1984). "Relative deprivation theory: An overview and conceptual critique". British Journal of Social Psychology. 23 (4): 301–310. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1984.tb00645.x. ISSN 0144-6665.
  18. ^ Webber, Craig (2007). "Revaluating relative deprivation theory". Theoretical Criminology. 11 (1): 97–120. doi:10.1177/1362480607072737. ISSN 1362-4806.
  19. ^ Festinger, Leon (1954). "A Theory of Social Comparison Processes". Human Relations. 7 (2): 117–140. doi:10.1177/001872675400700202. ISSN 0018-7267.
  20. ^ "Samuel A. Stouffer and The American Soldier (Ryan J., 2010) | PDF | Sociology | Social Science". Scribd. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  21. ^ a b c Meegan, Daniel V. (2010). "Zero-Sum Bias: Perceived Competition Despite Unlimited Resources". Frontiers in Psychology. 1: 191. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00191. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 3153800. PMID 21833251.
  22. ^ Wilkins, Clara L.; Wellman, Joseph D.; Babbitt, Laura G.; Toosi, Negin R.; Schad, Katherine D. (2015). "You can win but I can't lose: Bias against high-status groups increases their zero-sum beliefs about discrimination". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 57: 1–14. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2014.10.008. ISSN 0022-1031.
  23. ^ a b Miller, Dale T. (1999). "The norm of self-interest". American Psychologist. 54 (12): 1053–1060. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.54.12.1053. ISSN 1935-990X. PMID 15332526.
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  26. ^ Cappelen, Cornelius; Dahlberg, Stefan (2018). "The Law of Jante and generalized trust". Acta Sociologica. 61 (4): 419–440. doi:10.1177/0001699317717319. ISSN 0001-6993.
  27. ^ DeMatteo, Jacquelyn S.; Eby, Lillian T; Sundstrom, Eric (1998). "Team-based rewards: Current empirical evidence". Research in Organizational Behavior. 20: 141–183. ISBN 0-7623-0366-2.
  28. ^ Liu, Dong; Liao, Hui; Loi, Raymond (2012). "The Dark Side of Leadership: A Three-Level Investigation of the Cascading Effect of Abusive Supervision on Employee Creativity". Academy of Management Journal. 55 (5): 1187–1212. doi:10.5465/amj.2010.0400. ISSN 0001-4273.
  29. ^ Dweck, Carol S. (2009). "Mindsets: Developing talent through a growth mindset". Olympic Coach. 21 (1): 4–7.
  30. ^ a b Sampson, Robert J.; Raudenbush, Stephen W.; Earls, Felton (1997-08-15). "Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multilevel Study of Collective Efficacy". Science. 277 (5328): 918–924. doi:10.1126/science.277.5328.918. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 9252316.

Further reading edit