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Ted Bundy: Psychological Views

Michelle R Sargent

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Introduction: Ted Bundy: Origins

Born Theodore Robert Cowell, born to an unwed mother and raised by his

maternal grandparents until the age of five when his mother met and married

John Bundy. He was raised in a middle class atmosphere, was well behaved,

performed well in school, and grew into an attractive teen that was generally

liked. He went on to attend Puget Sound University and continued to thrive

academically but experienced his first insecurities as he was surrounded y those

who were considerably better off financially than he. This social discomfort was

enough to prod him to transfer from Puget University to the University of


Throughout his younger years he suffered from acute shyness and felt

awkward in social situations. Although he had friends they were few and he

rarely dated. It wasn’t until he met what would be his first love. Desperate to

impress the woman of his dreams he exaggerated his financial and social

standings. Ultimately she found the relationship going nowhere and ended it

sending Bundy into an emotional tail spin which resulted in depression and the

beginnings of his decent into madness.

Although he suffered from depression he was adept at hiding it and began

his climb towards to success. He was attractive, smart, and had a future in

politics and would become one of the most creative serial killers in U.S. history.

In 1974 young women began disappearing from campuses throughout the

Washington and Oregon area and continued but not without some basic

consistencies. Each of his victims maintained a common appearance. This serial

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behavior and subsequent killings ended after his third arrest and final conviction

for what would become known as the Sorority Row murders in 1975. (Montaldo,


Psychoanalytic Profile

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic view of motivation is based in four

principles; determinism, drive, conflict, and the unconscious self. In this view Ted

Bundy would be more of a victim than a perpetrator as the events or determining

factors, emotions and compulsions would be considered out of his control. The

second principle of drive is considered to primitive, instinctual; in this case

leaving him once again held unaccountable for his actions.

The third of Freud’s principles is conflict. Here his actions are once again

dismissed or rather smoothed over by the inner and outer conflicts that shap3d

his life; once again holding him unaccountable for his actions. The final principle

of the unconscious states that he would be unable to control the urges he had

and hence not accountable for his actions and the outcome.

Ultimately this view releases him from responsibility for his actions and the

eventual outcomes. It does not take into account his education, his ability to

adapt and overcome; all of which are a large part of how he was able to become

a success in his criminal endeavors. Although he was affected by his origins I

maintain that he was capable of controlling his urges.

Humanistic Profile

The humanistic view is based mainly in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Bundy’s basic needs were met right up until the esteem section of the pyramid.
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Although he was academically successful he still grappled with feelings of

inadequacies with regard to financial and worthiness status. His financial short

comings were less of an obstacle than he perceived them to be. His ability to

look beyond the issue and strive towards his own success in his early years may

have played a role in his eventual end.

However as he matured he found that by creating greater circumstances

than those he was born to he was able to manipulate his interrogators. His ability

to manipulate his victims and interrogators was in large part his self actualization.

However this view again falls short of accountability. We are more than the sum

of our parts. Although we do have basic needs that must be met serial behavior

overrides these needs.

Diversity Profile

The diversity view best represented by Murray states that we are more

than the sum of our parts. The appearance we; emotional, social and physical;

that we allow others to see is not necessarily all we are. Murray contends that as

we grow and evolve so too do our perceptions and needs. Ted Bundy’s serial

behavior is the collection of all his experiences. Each moment, success, failure,

emotional triumph or set back is what made him who he was. No one part of his

life holds the key to who he became but rater the culmination of events were the

building blocks for the serial killings and the man he became.


Ted Bundy is but one example of how the three basic psychological views

can be applied. Each view offers a different look into the individuals’ motivations
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and causal connections for the behavior that made him famous. The Diversity

view is the best fit for this type of profile. When considering the behaviors of a

serial offender all aspects of the life must be considered.

In this case the catalyst was his first love. This singular event created the

opportunity for an obsession that continued to grow, hence the similarities in the

victimology. His behaviors although at times seemed erratic were actually

escalations in behavior due to the increased need to fulfill his desire to

completely possess those he found unobtainable.

Although each view has merit, the examination of the human personality is

considerably more in depth than just the implementation of a few power points on

a chart. We are complex creatures, affected by everything we experience. In this

case the very experiences that Bundy had defined his needs and desires; their

place on his psychological hierarchy and the timing of the emergence of his serial

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1. Montaldo C. 2004; Serial Killer Ted Bundy; Retrieved on October 1,2009;

http://crime.about.com/od/serial/p/tedbundy.htm (Montaldo, 2004)