When a large number of crabs are in a bucket, it is not neccessary to place a lid on said bucket to keep them in. This is due to the crabs' habit of pulling and tugging on one another, so that when one is about to escape over the top,the freedom-loving crab's compatriots pull him or her back in.

This term is often used to describe the behavior of subcultures in society who seem to do everything in their power to destroy the ambitions of those among them who wish to improve themselves. Examples include what is called the "alamihi crab syndrome" in Hawaii, and the behavior of inner-city Blacks on the mainland calling their compatriots who diverge from the subculture as "oreo" or worse.