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7 Examples of Gaslighting

Gaslighting is the sustained and strategic use of misinformation to attempt to cause someone to doubt their memory, perceptions or sanity. This is considered unethical, manipulative and abnormal. The term gaslighting is very commonly misused to apply to minor insults, criticism, sidelining and disagreements. For example, it is common for people to accuse the other side in an argument of gaslighting when there is some disagreement regarding interpretation of facts. This is not a valid use of the term. The following are illustrative examples of actual gaslighting.

Denying Perception

Causing an individual to doubt their perceptions by providing them with misinformation. The origin of the term gaslighting is a 1938 British play entitled Gas Light wherein a husband manipulates his wife with misinformation. Famously, he slowly dims the gas lights in their home while pretending that the lighting level is the same. When she responds to the low light he reacts as if dealing with someone who is delusional and hysterical.

Denying Facts

Denial of concrete facts in a bizarre way intended to target an individual's sense of reality. For example, a friend who denies that a vacation to Germany together ever happened.


Staging strange events and then pretending they never happened. For example, saying something bizarre to someone and then pretending you never said it.

Setting Up To Fail

Planting misinformation in order to have someone else perceived as hysterical and delusional. For example, telling a coworker that you have certain information that suggests they are about to be fired and then denying you ever said this later.


Pathologizing is the process of labeling things as psychologically abnormal. This may be used to reinforce gaslighting whereby a manipulative person uses concepts from popular psychology to question the sanity of the target. For example, suggesting that their behavior in response to gaslighting is a classic symptom of a disorder.

Illusory Truth Effect

The illusory truth effect is the tendency for people to believe something they have heard repeated many times, even if it isn't at all true. For example, a parent who tells a child they aren't good at something many times until they believe it. This is terribly damaging.

Learned Helplessness

Gaslighting may be intended to establish dominance over someone whereby they learn not to trust their own memory, cognitive abilities or sanity such that they begin to depend on the manipulator.


The overuse of the word gaslighting to describe a wide range of situations, including simple disagreements, is perhaps characteristic of the loss of nuance in the English language whereby people more often use the most dramatic word they can find such that their vocabulary becomes small and blunt.
Not all misinformation is gaslighting. Gaslighting is based on intent to make someone feel mentally unbalanced. For example, an individual who incorrectly denies they said something in the past isn't necessarily gaslighting, they may simply not want to defend their past statements such that lying is a quick way out.
Overview: Gaslighting
The sustained and strategic use of misinformation to attempt to cause someone to doubt their memory, perceptions or sanity.
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Dorpat, Theodore L. Gaslighthing, the Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis. Jason Aronson, Incorporated, 1996.
Abramson, Kate. "Turning up the lights on gaslighting." Philosophical perspectives 28 (2014): 1-30.
Sweet, Paige L. "The sociology of gaslighting." American Sociological Review 84.5 (2019): 851-875.


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