Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse. It involves an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to the subject, having the gradual effect of making the victim anxious, confused, and less able to trust his or her own memory and perception. A variation of gaslighting, used as a form of harassment, is to subtly alter aspects of a victim's environment, thereby upsetting his or her peace of mind, sense of security, etc.

The term was coined from the 1940 film "Gaslight" and its 1944 remake in which changes in gas light levels are experienced several times by the main character. The classic example in the film is the character Gregory using the gas lamps in the attic, causing the rest of the lamps in the house to dim slightly; when Paula comments on the lights' dimming, she is told she is imagining things. Paula believes herself alone in the house when the dimming occurs, unaware that Gregory has entered the attic from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which the character Paula is subjected.

This technique is also supposed to have been used by the Manson Family during their "creepy crawler" burglaries during which nothing was stolen, but furniture in the house was rearranged.

Cultural references

In the 2001 movie "Amélie", the titular protagonist embarks on a mission to gaslight her local grocer as punishment for his cruelty toward his intellectually impaired assistant, Lucien. Amelie switches his lightbulbs with lower wattage bulbs and replaces his slippers with smaller ones, among other tricks.

In Roman Polanski's film, "Rosemary's Baby", Rosemary's husband and neighbors conspire to use her to mother the anti-christ, through the use of drugs and convincing her that she is mentally ill.

On their album "Two Against Nature", the band Steely Dan include the song "Gaslighting Abbie" about two people conspiring to torment their room-mate.

In the 2007 movie "The Darjeeling Limited", Adrian Brody's character asks Jason Schwartzman's character "Could she be gaslighting you?" when he discovers his ex-girlfriend had placed her perfume into his luggage.

In the 2007 Edward Burns film, "Purple Violets", Debra Messing's character implores Selma Blair's character not to let her husband "gaslight her".

The play "The Mystery of Irma Vep" makes reference to this with a scene where Lady Enid is recounting to her husband all of the strange things that have been happening in the house whereupon the lights begin dimming. When she comments on it, her husband assures her that the lights are not dimming, convincing her that she must be going crazy.

In season 7, episode 22 (first aired August 24, 2008), Detective Eames (Kathryn Erbe) tells her partner Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) that someone is "gaslighting" him. An as yet unidentified killer has arranged circumstances to bring suspicion upon and to unsettle Detective Goren in the murders of his brother (Tony Goldwyn) and his nemesis played by Olivia D'Abo.

ee also

*Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
*Martha Mitchell effect


* cite book
last = Santoro
first = Victor
title = Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy
publisher = Loompanics Unlimited
month = June | year = 1994
id = ISBN 1-55950-113-8

* cite book
last = Stern
first = Dr. Robin
title = The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life
publisher = Broadway
month = May | year = 2007
id = ISBN 978-0767924450

* cite video
people = George Cukor (director)
title = Gaslight
medium = 35 mm
publisher = MGM
year = 1944

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gaslighting — …   Useful english dictionary

  • Gaslighting Abbie — is the first track on Steely Dan s 2000 Grammy Award winning album Two Against Nature . The song is about a husband and his mistress plotting to drive his wife crazy. [ [ BBC Chat | 3/4/00 ] ] Explanation of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Abuse — This article is about the mistreatment of people or systems. For other uses, see Abuse (disambiguation). Mistreat redirects here. For other uses, see Mistreat (disambiguation). Contents 1 Types and contexts of abuse 1.1 …   Wikipedia

  • Psychological abuse — Classification and external resources ICD 10 T74.3 ICD 9 995.82 Psychological abuse, also …   Wikipedia

  • The Young and the Restless minor characters — The following are characters from the American soap opera The Young and the Restless who are notable for their actions or relationships, but who do not warrant their own articles. Contents 1 Current Characters 1.1 Genevieve …   Wikipedia

  • Mind control — (also known as brainwashing, coercive persuasion, mind abuse, thought control, or thought reform) refers to a process in which a group or individual systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes… …   Wikipedia

  • Gaslight — may refer to:* Gas lighting, the use of flammable gas such as natural gas as a light source * Gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse coined as a reference to two similar films of the same name: ** Gas Light (1938) the Patrick Hamilton stage… …   Wikipedia

  • Deception — For other uses of deception and deceit, see Deception (disambiguation) and Deceit (disambiguation). For other uses of mystification and mystify, see Mystify (disambiguation) Further information: Bad Faith Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff,… …   Wikipedia

  • P. T. Barnum — Phineas Taylor Barnum Phineas Taylor Barnum photo by Mathew Brady, c.1860 Born Phineas Taylor Barnum July 5, 1810(1810 07 05) Be …   Wikipedia

  • Intimidation — (also called cowing) is intentional behavior which would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities fear of injury or harm. It s not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause terror or that the victim was actually… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.