The Social Dimensions of Gaslighting

Ethics Beyond Compliance

In the last few years, it seems the term “gas lighting” has become nearly ubiquitous. The term was first used in the 1950s to mean some kind of emotional manipulation, but more specifically to mean making someone doubt his or her own sanity by repeatedly presenting a false narrative about events within the relationship. At least one person, (you can see Alfred MacDonald’s blog here), claims that gaslighting actually requires someone to tell an outright lie in order to convince someone their memory or perception is faulty. Others believe the manipulation can be more subtle, and still others use the term so loosely that almost everyone is guilty of gaslighting (e.g., telling someone they are over-reacting to a minor event or episode).

I don’t think anyone has provided strict diagnostic criteria for gaslighting, and I won’t try, but I think we can agree that it does involve manipulating someone…

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