Crab mentality

Crab mentality, also known as crab theory,[1][2] crabs in a bucket (also barrel, basket, or pot) mentality, or the crab-bucket effect, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you".[3] 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,[4] its efforts will be undermined by others, ensuring the group's collective demise.[5][6][7] As such, the crab mentality shares some features in common with a similar phenomenon of human behaviour called tall poppy syndrome.

Live crabs in a bucket

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 the others, out of envy, resentment, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress.[8][9][10][11]

Effect on performanceEdit

Crab mentality affects performance in an organization as humans behave in similar manner as the crabs particularly within social teams.[12] The detrimental impact of crab mentality on performance was quantified by a New Zealand study in 2015; students in the study scored an average of 18% higher on exams when steps were taken to ensure their anonymity in published rankings, thereby mitigating the possibility of peer bullying.[13]

See alsoEdit


  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.
  8. ^ 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. 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. ^ Dietrich, David M.; Kenworthy, Michael; Cudney, Elizabeth A. (2019). Additive Manufacturing Change Management: Best Practices. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-367-15207-9.
  13. ^ Spacey, Simon (2015). "Crab Mentality, Cyberbullying and "Name and Shame" Rankings". Waikato University, New Zealand. S2CID 38442243. Retrieved April 19, 2015.

Further readingEdit