Crab Mentality: The ‘Crabs in a Bucket’ Analogy

A crab.

The 'Crab Effect' or the 'Crab Mentality' is a phenomenon that concerns how people negatively respond to the success of others. (Image: via Wikipedia)

When someone else achieves tremendous success or progresses, others sometimes underestimate that person or their accomplishments. And this is when the crab mentality takes action. 

The crab mentality occurs when the group opposes and blocks the progress of any members who achieve more tremendous success than themselves, whether via envy, spite, or competitiveness. People with this mentality usually have this kind of thinking: “If I can’t do it, you can’t either.” 

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In short, the crab mentality can strongly influence people’s ideas, statements, and behaviors in several settings. Then, understanding it is essential. So if you want to know more about this mentality, continue reading this article.

The origin of the crab mentality

There is an instance where a man observed the behaviors of a group of live crabs in a bucket. As the man watches, he notices that one crab will always reach the bucket’s rim through its effort. But then, another crab will try to pull it back down as it moves closer to the edge. And that kind of situation continues to repeat over and over again.

Little did the man know that this kind of behavior meant something, and that is how the analogy of “Crabs in the Bucket” formed. In psychology, this situation is called the “Crab Effect” or the “Crab Mentality.” This mentality pertains to the selfishness and jealousy of other people trying to affect the performance of who is better than them.

A crab will always reach the bucket's rim through its effort. But then, another crab will try to pull it back down as it moves closer to the edge. And that kind of situation continues to repeat over and over again.
A crab will always reach the bucket’s rim through its effort. But then, another crab will try to pull it back down as it moves closer to the edge. And that kind of situation continues to repeat over and over again. (Image: via Wikipedia)

An understanding of the crab mentality

The “Crab Effect” or the “Crab Mentality” is a phenomenon that concerns how people negatively respond to the success of others. 

For a further explanation, crab mentality can also be defined as someone’s desire to put others down who they believe are superior to them in some way. Individuals with this mentality frequently believe that if they can’t have it, then no one else can either. And that is why they drag others who follow them down, so they do not fail alone.

One typical example that shows how the crab mentality works is how an envious individual responds to the achievements of their workmate. Instead of giving their support and congratulating them, with this mentality, they tend to pull them down through harassment or critiques. They do this merely because they are troubled by their performance.

Crab mentality can also be defined as someone's desire to put others down who they believe are superior to them in some way.
Crab mentality can also be defined as someone’s desire to put others down who they believe are superior to them in some way. (Image: Mykola Kravchenko via Dreamstime)

Why do people have this mentality?

The crab mentality is not something you can quickly resolve without knowing the reason for it. Hence, you must understand how it can form and what causes it. Considering that, here are the common reasons people have a crab mentality.

Mental biases

When it comes to the crab mentality, having a bias or irrationality is a typical reason why it formed in the first place. For example, the zero-sum mentality is the standard type of bias that people with a crab mentality usually experience. A zero-sum mentality is when you believe that something is limited even though, in reality, it’s not. But then, for it to become sufficient for you, you need to take something from others. 

Aside from that, the bandwagon effect is another form of bias that can also influence how you act or think. You believe you need to do this because others are also doing the same. If this belief continues, it can spread the crab mentality to social groups, workmates, and even family members.

Emotional motivation

Another common reason people tend to have a crab mentality is their emotional motivation. Emotional motivation means you have this drive to feel better about yourself. Yet you don’t have the intent to recognize others who are better than you. In other words, envy is the correct term for that situation. 

Accordingly, there are times when you tend to do something unexpected, something that can affect the achievements of others to make yourself feel better. That’s when the so-called crab mentality started to form.

The reality of crab mentality

In conclusion, the crab mentality is an assertive attitude against those around you who you believe are superior. Well, there are indeed numerous individuals out there who are far better and more experienced than you, but instead of envying them, use their achievements to motivate you. With that, you will make progress in your life and may soon achieve what you truly deserve. 

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