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Gaslighting is a form of intimidation or psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory and perception. The classic example of gaslighting is to change things in a person’s environment without their knowledge, and to explain that they “must be imagining things” when they challenge these changes. Popular usage of the term can be traced to at least the late 1970s.
The term derives from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, and the 1944 film adaption, in which a wife’s concerns about the dimming of her house’s gas lights are dismissed by her husband as the work of her imagination, when he has actually caused the lights to dim. His action is part of a wider pattern of deception in which the husband manipulates small elements of his wife’s environment, and insists that she is mistaken or misremembering, hoping to drive her to insanity.
An example of gaslighting being used in real life was by the Manson Family during their “creepy crawler” burglaries during which nothing was stolen, but furniture in the house was rearranged.
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