“Understanding Gaslighting,” by Paige L. Sweet, really hit home for me. I’m a severely disabled man who must use a wheelchair. I’ve endured for decades the humility of being marginalized and the abuse and neglect of the disability system. Yet when I’ve spoken about these injustices, I’ve been told that I’m “bitter,” lying or in need of psychological help. Like some of the people Sweet mentions in her article, I’ve questioned the morality of my character as well as my sanity.

It’s very important to educate people about the nefarious practice of gaslighting. If I had known that I was being gaslighted, then I think I would have been more effective in countering it.


I have a much better picture in my mind of what gaslighting is now. After finishing the article, I couldn’t help but think back to the U.S. Senate hearings on the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and the grilling of Professor Anita Hill.

JAMES P. NELSON via e-mail

Sweet provides a concise, important description of what gaslighting is and how it is being studied—a most timely endeavor. The research she describes seems poised to further our understanding of the harm done by brainwashing or what some professionals call “undue influence.” Both use similar methods: power, influence and control. Perhaps the more the broader population understands gaslighting and brainwashing, the less often we will let folks get away with them.

AUDREY N. GLICKMAN Pittsburgh, Pa.


In “Cities Build Better Biologists” [Forum], Nyeema C. Harris argues that the experience of living in an urban area can be just as relevant to the training of young biologists as living in a rural one. She goes on to say that we should reframe urban areas as valuable for their biodiversity and unconventional ecology.

I agree and would invite readers—especially nonscientists—to follow up on her message with action. I can think of two ways urbanites can be more attentive to nature in the big city: First, anyone can act as a “citizen scientist” using the mobile app iNaturalist. Your documented observations, verified by experts, contribute to the tracking of biodiversity in your hometown. Second, growing native species of plants—if you have any open land available to you—attracts pollinators, birds and other animals. Even in a heavily urbanized area, you can appreciate and support the natural world around you.



In “See More” [From the Editor], Laura Helmuth mentions that the term “gaslighting” originated in a 1930s play that subsequently became a film starring Ingrid Bergman as a victim of this type of psychological manipulation. In citing the Bergman vehicle alone, she unwittingly enabled an alleged past attempt at gaslighting.

The first film version of Gaslight was released in 1940, directed by Thorold Dickinson and starring Anton Walbrook as the murderous and venal sociopath and Diana Wynyard as his deeply abused wife. It was a British production with cast and crew largely unfamiliar to American audiences. Four years later MGM put out its own version, featuring a well-known director (George Cukor) and a big-name starring cast (Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty and the then teenage Angela Lansbury). Among strategies to ensure the latter film’s commercial success, MGM engaged in an effort to destroy as many extant copies of the 1940 version as possible and to pretend as if the previous film had never existed.

That effort was not wholly successful. Copies of the 1940 version survived, and it has been viewed in various venues, including TCM from time to time. Both versions are excellent and should be seen by any serious cinephile, but the 1940 version is considered to hew closer to the original stage play, entitled Gas Light, by Patrick Hamilton (author of Rope). The 1940 version also has a haunting score missing from its successor.



Thank you for featuring the two articles in the September 2022 issue about the state of both physical and mental health in today’s youth and what schools can do to address those problems: “Health Care Starts at School,” by the Editors [Science Agenda], and “Protecting Kids’ Mental Health,” by Mitch Prinstein and Kathleen A. Ethier [Forum].

One of the major sources of poor mental health and school achievement is childhood poverty. This is what makes both stories so depressing. We need better supports for families with children so that they can focus on school rather than on the stressors that result from poverty. As described in the Science Agenda story, the amount Congress allocated to expand school health centers in 2021 ($5 million) is paltry in comparison with the need.

Prinstein and Ethier’s description of mental health programs for schools in their Forum piece is certainly encouraging, but this approach will also need many more resources for schools than we currently allocate.

I wish there were a magic wand that we could wave in schools to overcome both mental and physical health problems, but a lot of the problems derive from socioeconomic sources that schools alone cannot solve on their own.

DAN ROMER Bryn Mawr, Pa.


Artificial Confidence,” by Gary Marcus, noted that an AI released in May 2022 by Google “couldn’t tell the difference between an astronaut riding a horse and a horse riding an astronaut” and referred to accompanying images showing astronauts riding horses. Google’s AI Imagen did not compare these images with others. Rather, when researchers prompted Imagen to create images of “A horse riding an astronaut,” the AI created only images of astronauts riding horses.


Healing Waters,” by Stephanie Stone [August 2022], incorrectly described Jose Jimeno as a virologist at PharmaMar. He is an oncologist and medical director of PharmaMar’s virology unit.

Testing Nukes,” by Adam Mann and Alastair Philip Wiper, incorrectly listed plutonium as being among the substances used to generate a fusion reaction at the National Ignition Facility. The facility conducts other experiments involving plutonium.

Name Check,” by Rebecca Dzombak [Advances; November 2022], should have said the database of dolphin whistles included nearly 1,000 recording sessions, not nearly 1,000 recorded whistles.

COVID Relay,” by Megha Satyanarayana [Advances; November 2022], ran a graphic depicting the number of COVID cases reported in each species in a database as of September 6, 2022. It was missing the Sumatran tiger, a subspecies with two reported cases in the database at that time.

“An Invisible Epidemic,” by Elizabeth Svoboda [December 2022], included repeated and missing text on page 56 of the U.S. print edition. The correct version of the article is available at www.scientific american.com/article/moral-injury-is-an-invisible-epidemic-that-affects-millions