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PSYCH 291 University of Waterloo Operationalization of Gaslighting Discussion

For this assignment we will focus on developing an operational definition for gaslighting, a psychological phenomenon that has recently gotten a lot of attention in popular culture. In popular culture, gaslighting refers to a type of psychological abuse in which a person (or group of people) undermines another person’s confidence in their own perception of reality. The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 movie, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, in which a husband tries to trick his wife into believing that she is losing her sanity. The title refers to one of the tricks that he plays on her, which involves making the gas lights in their house flicker on and off but denying that the flickering is happening whenever she points it out. While the gaslighting in this movie is an extreme example, the term gaslighting in contemporary popular culture refers to a variety of often subtle ways that a person might undermine another person’s confidence in their own perceptions of reality.

Let’s imagine that a relationship psychologist is interested in studying the phenomenon of gaslighting in close relationships. The relationship psychologist formulates the following theory, which she will use to study this phenomenon:

“Gaslighting is a type of pscyhological abuse in close relationships that has a negative impact on the gaslighting victim’s psychological well-being.”

To generate a testable hypothesis from this theory we will need to construct an operational definition of gaslighting in the context of close relationships.

In the popular culture gaslighting is a rather vague, fuzzy concept that is likely to mean different things to different people. We will need to narrow down our concept of gaslighting to a definition that is sufficiently concrete and well-specified that it will allow us to measure observable indicators, such as behaviours or survey/interview questions, that fit our definition of the construct.

To go about developing an operational definition of gaslighting we will start by generating various interpretations of what gaslighting might mean. Your task will be to


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