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Criminal Profiling Case Study: Ted Bundy



Criminal Profiling Case Study: Ted Bundy


The case of Ted Bundy, full name Theodore Bundy whom was known as one of the most unpredictable mass murderers and was executed in Florida on Jan 24, 1989. The day before his  execution Dr. James Dobson, a Christian talk radio host interviewed him. Analyzing the information Bundy shared and his environmental background I will view the case from an objective perspective to gather contextual evidence to form a psychological evaluation and diagnosis. Using the DSM-V I was able to find a diagnosis which met the emotional lack of empathy yet ability to remain functional and perform planned homicides. It comes down to a cognitive deficit which a mood disorder alters the ability to understand morality.


Exploring in depth the case study involving Ted Bundy including the offenses of multiple homicides in the investigation I can form a hypothesis based on different variables such as evidence of being a mass murderer, environmental background from a psychological perspective, and the prognosis of a possible mental illness. Analyzing the factors contributing to the offenders criminality and various theories of why he committed the crimes will explain what motivated him and his objectives. Comparing Ted Bundy with the impact of social, psychological, and biological theories of aggression would provide answers to the criminal behaviors. Describing crime typology and the offender in relation to a personality disorder that might have played a role in criminal behavior would form another possible hypothesis of the motivating factors. In conclusion the offenders outcome is the death penalty as he is guilty of the crimes committed.

The offender had psychological behavior which correlates similarly with psychopathy. Usually a psychopath is comfortable with who they are and how they think so, when psychoanalyzed there is no noticeable traits of anxiety or fear of their psychopathic personality or behaviors. According to Harrow, M., Quinlan, D., Wallington, S., & Pickett Jr., L. (1976), “Two other measures of disordered thinking and perception also were assessed from the test protocols, to evaluate the importance of primitive drive dominated content, in contrast to the role of other types of deviant thinking and perception. These two are a measure of deviant thought quality or deviant communication (TQ) (Which our previous evidence suggests is an index of bizarre, idiosyncratic and/or illogical verbalizations), and of very poor form level or F- (which many feel is an index of poor reality testing).” (Pg33Para4)

Various childhood psychological and sociological influences that can contribute to psychopathic behavior. Trauma abuse, neglect, and abandonment contribute such as severe trauma can manifest a child into developing sociopathic behaviors and becoming a psychopath. Evolutionary psychology views environmental aspects of how from a genetic and environmental view of how based on the trauma a child is exposed to let alone and social or family environment contribute greatly. An example of this I want to point out is within war zones and children who are exposed to constant terrorist attacks within their society and on their family members usually leaving them traumatized and with a feeling of abandonment, this is something common among many refugee children from war torn countries. Sometimes a small percentage of those children develop into sociopaths and commit acts of domestic terrorism as young adults.

Antisocial personality disorder could relate to Ted Bundy and how he developed into a serial killer.  Usually this type of disorder originates from environmental factors such as family and if there was neglect and abuse. The coping mechanisms for a child after having to deal with neglect and abuse eventually numb or displace the emotions or feelings they have and there is lack of expression of all emotions. As the child grows into adolescence they may act out displacing those emotions into the form of vandalism, theft, and or violence which can lead to criminal behaviors and criminal acts. If the juvenile with an antisocial personality disorder were untreated and still exposed to factors contributing to the neglect or abuse they felt as a younger child it could cause a severe violent reaction again displacing those emotions such as homicidal tendencies with animals and then with people eventually leading to psychopathic behaviors suchas for an example serial killings.

Etiology of antisocial personality disorder of how it develops is through traumatic childhood experiences relating to abuse and neglect. The family and culture which the child grows up with and how they are exposed to an excessive amount of traumatic violence which changes the coping mechanisms and affects psychosocial skills which changes the personality. According to Riser, R. E., & Kosson, D. S. (2013), “ASPD is characterized by pervasive disregard for the rights of others, beginning in childhood and continuing into adulthood (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Treatment Revision; DMS-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychopathy is a syndrome of personality pathology characterized by lack of empathy, emotional shallowness, superficial charm, and impulsivity (Cleckley, 1988).” (Pg332Para2) It’s possible that Ted Bundy’s killings were impulsive based off of the trauma he experienced as a child.

Human nature and instincts, psychopathy and genetics, child abuse and drug use all have something in common which is the development of personality in human behaviors. What takes place in someone’s life based on a single decision can change them forever or genetically someone has no control over based on a disfigurement of their brain and development. From a scientific perspective looking into neuroscience and criminal behaviors, it’s possible that along with antisocial behaviors contributing to psychopathy that on a cognitive level there was a deficit in development of the brain which also developed a mood disorder and a euthymic state of bipolar disorder. On a neurological level chemically there are receptors translating information differently in association with the production of dopamine in the brain. Brain dysfunctions are associated with criminal behaviors and psychopathy which makes sense in relation to Bundy.

Aspects of the case such as the psychological theory known to cause cognitive failure or problems with the cognitive ability to reason with empathy will be directly related to neuropsychological disorders, specifically cognitive deficits related to a euthymic state of bipolar disorder. This is based off of Bundy having the ability to use reason and intelligent ability to plan and perform multiple homicides and without being caught for as many people that he killed which shows his ability to use planning and having intelligent capabilities to know what he was doing however having no ability to understanding of right or wrong because of the cognitive deficit. It was not a matter of psychosis or being psychotic since he was functionally aware of what he was doing and remembered clearly all of the details of planning and going through with killing.

Human nature on an instinctive level is about protection, providing, and survival. Everyone wants to feel safe, be able to provide themselves or family with food and water, and be able to survive environmental and all other potential dangers. From the beginning of time when humans lived off the land there was a continuous struggle and effort in meeting those basic needs. Maslow Hierarchy of needs points out this basic survival and needs in order to achieve a comfortable and successful lifestyle in order to evolve to the next level. A psychopath does not think in this same manner of an instinctive level of human nature and instead would most likely view people as animals or objects in an altered perspective of what they could be to benefit them or how they could be used to benefit the psychopath which could involve things such as manipulation tactics and homicide. Repetitive serial killings which have a theme such as viewed in crime scenes of a particular theme would be associated with trauma or childhood abuse.

Psychopathy linked to a genetic trait that affects the brain and damage or disfigurement to the amygdala which is associated with the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system of the brain is responsible for emotional development, survival instincts, and memory. It is highly probable that the adrenal gland producing the amount of progesterone is affected as well since the progesterone in males affect testosterone which is the sex hormone, in psychopaths it is highly probably there is a lack of progesterone and dopamine affection neuron receptors in the brain. The hypothalamus controls the adrenal and endocrine system. So on a genetic level there is a hormonal imbalance affecting the limbic system and endocrine system which in return affects mood, behaviors, and neuron receptors processing information.

Brain dysfunctions and damage including drug use can also contribute to chemical imbalances in the brain, cognitive deficits and cognitive development or functional abilities for an individual. An example I would use is in Miami when a wandering man high on bath salts which impaired his brain and reasoning, ate another mans face completely off which was a homeless man in the way of his path. Hunger may have been a drive on the offenders mind but, his objectives were clearly misaligned although there’s indication this could have been aggression and it was solely animalistic in nature. The offender continued to eat the mans face while being shot at and after being shot multiple times to the point where the police had to killthe offender to stop him from eating. This shows how the brain receptors can influence aggression and misalign information and lead to a homicide from drug use.

Front lobe damage or alteration can affect processing information and control over emotional and physical behaviors. According to Sener, M. T., Ozcan, H., Sahingoz, S., & Ogul, (2015), “Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is associated with planning, forming strategy and executive functions. Personality changes, aboulia, apathy, dysfunction in planning and sequencing functions can be seen in the lesions of this area. However, due to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions, disinhibition, aggression, social dissonance, sexually inappropriate behaviours can be seen. In most of the FLS cases, executive dysfunctions such as loss of ability in using initiative, setting an objective, planning, selecting the appropriate response, following the ongoing behaviour might be deteriorated. Attention deficits, inconsistencies in social life, impulse control problems, and obsessive and violence behaviours are common clinical signs.” (Pg218Para1) Associating frontal lobe damage to criminal behavior would explain the impulsive and repetitive actions of criminals and it is most likely that a majority or if not all criminals with repetitive behaviors have frontal lobe damage either due to an injury or drug / chemical use.

Drug use is associated with brain damage and altering personality. There possibility of drug addiction also associated with psychopathic behaviors or changes in personality based on affecting a particular trait or altering DNA on a genetic level depending on the type of drug and amount of drug use affecting cognitive impairments. There’s noticeable changes in the brain with alterations of perception and on a cognitive level ethics and morality for example, what’s right or wrong. During a lab study observing the areas of the brain affected by female rats with the drug induce of cocaine, there was DNA damage caused by the lack of formation of metabolites which affects enzymes and bodily functioning to rid body of toxins which eventually causes organ failure. The point of using this example is showing how the brain being an organ is affected and if humans with criminal behaviors use drugs they most likely have damage to their brain and other parts of their body affecting overall functioning. According to Souza, M.F., Goncales, T. A., Steinmetz, A., Moura, D. J., Saffi, J., Gomez, R., & Barros, H. M. (2014), “When we compared hormonal conditions in the control group, cycling females were found to have higher levels of DNA damage than OVX rats in all brain regions examined (Fig. 1), suggesting a crucial role for hormones in the induction of DNA damage in rats that did not receive cocaine.” (Pg266Para1)

Amoralism is the highest degree of disregard for moral considerations, it is completely immoral to the point of no sense of wrong or right or if there is an understanding of what’s wrong it is completely disregarded and justified through a means of manipulation of why. According to ZAVALIY, A. G. (2012), “His actual behavior demonstrates (even if he verbally disagrees) that he does not in any real sense recognize the validity of moral principles, or their applicability to his own person. Furthermore, an amoralist lacks morality not in a sense that his morality is different from the morality of a society he lives in, but in a sense that whatever action-guiding principles he might adopt, they do not constitute a system of moral principles.” (Pg365Para3)

The key issue and controversy is based off of the reason behind the multiple homicides and the conclusion would be based on a cognitive deficit which impaired Bundy’s ability to discern from right or wrong and reduce his empathy and moral reasoning abilities which at the same time contributed to a euthymic state of bipolar disorder. “Recent studies stress the persistence of cognitive deficits as well as social behavioral disturbances in the euthymic state of bipolar disorder. However, there is a paucity of experimental reports on these patients’ social cognition abilities and their underlying mechanism. Two basic aspects of social cognition include the ability to empathize and the ability to mentalize about other people’s mental state. Empathy is broadly defined as our reaction to the observed experiences of others. While some investigators have emphasized empathy as the ability to engage in the cognitive process of adopting another’s psychological perspective or point of view (“cognitive empathy”), others have stressed its emotional facets (“affective empathy”), referring to the capacity to experience a vicarious response to another person. Although empathy is considered to be a central characteristic of several psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, the cognitive empathic abilities of bipolar disorder patients have never before been examined.” (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) (Vol21Pg59)

The cognitive deficit relating to euthymic bipolar disorder affect the pre-frontal areas with processing information and discerning wrong from right. Its possible in Ted Bundy’s case that his chemical imbalance is not related to a use of drugs or brain damage but, to genetics. On a genetic level there were cognitive deficits which caused impairments as the brain developed. According to Lois, G., Linke, J., & Wessa, M. (2014), “It has been proposed that the neural mechanisms underlying dysfunctional emotion regulation as well as cognitive impairments in BD are related to hypoactive ventral prefrontal areas that exert diminished top-down control on limbic brain structures resulting in hyperactivity of these structures [1,4–7]. This disturbed frontolimbic functional connectivity (FC) has been shown during cognitive tasks [8], emotional tasks [9–11], and during resting state [12–16] in both symptomatic and euthymic BD patients.” (Pg1Para2)

Analyzing the mind of Ted Bundy and why he turned out to become a mass murderer is questionable since he fit the profile personality type of a serial killer which does relate to psychopathy but, something is different in the mannerisms of his personality with committing mass murders. It is possible that the influence and strategy of Bundy’s killing actually is related to a chemical imbalance in his brain which affected the way he handled his emotional problems and not discerning logically what was wrong or right in the process of the multiple homicides. According to Frances, A. (2014), “ Individual case studies involving psychological autopsy and a careful analysis of the often copious communications left behind suggest common themes. The mass murderer is an injustice collector who spends a great deal of time feeling resentful about real or imagined rejections and ruminating on past humiliations. He has a paranoid world view with chronic feelings of social persecution, envy, and grudge holding. He is tormented by beliefs that privileged others are enjoying life’s all-you-can-eat buffet, while he must peer through the window, an outside loner always looking in. Aggrieved and entitled, he longs for power and revenge to obliterate what he cannot have.”(Pg1Para4-5)

Bundy did not display this type of emotional problems publicly and would not seem insecure or paranoid in nature or have political motivation for producing mass killings. Again, Bundy fit the personality profile of a serial killer rather than a mass murderer even with the multiple homicides I think it more related to a particular pattern or number. Mass murderers are collectors so, its possible if Bundy was that he collected items from each person he killed and kept those items somewhere to reflect on his killings like in admiration such as with trophies. If there was a grudge against women then it can relate to his mother or a female figure in his life that brought him traumatic painful experiences. Constantly seeking power and revenge would have motivated Bundy to continue searching and killing.

In conclusion, I believe the offender Ted Bundy was a serial killer and not a mass murderer as he is currently listed as and I think his killings were motivated by environmental factors from his childhood growing up along with a genetic abnormality and chemical imbalance in the brain which also contributed to the euthymic bipolar disorder and preventing the discernment from wrong or right. With the repetitive trauma or abuse Bundy experienced it grew into a fixated ideology of wanting power that was taken from him and revenge. His sole objective for the power and revenge was not observed from a moral or ethical standpoint due to the cognitive impairments in his brain which gave him the ability to not have a conscience while seeking revenge on multiple innocent people and killing them. I think if Bundy hadn’t of been exposed to trauma or abuse from childhood then he would have not become a killer because there would have been no motivating factors of taking back power and seeking revenge.




Harrow, M., Quinlan, D., Wallington, S., & Pickett Jr., L. (1976). Primitive Drive-Dominated Thinking: Relationship to Acute Schizophrenia and Sociopathy. Journal Of Personality Assessment, 40(1), 31.

Riser, R. E., & Kosson, D. S. (2013). Criminal behavior and cognitive processing in male offenders with antisocial personality disorder with and without comorbid psychopathy. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 4(4), 332-340. doi:10.1037/a0033303

Sener, M. T., Ozcan, H., Sahingoz, S., & Ogul, H. (2015). Criminal Responsibility of the Frontal Lobe Syndrome. Eurasian Journal Of Medicine, 47(3), 218-222. doi:10.5152/eurasianjmed.2015.69

Souza, M.F., Goncales, T. A., Steinmetz, A., Moura, D. J., Saffi, J., Gomez, R., & Barros, H. M. (2014). Cocaine induces DNA damage in distinct brain areas of female rats under different hormonal conditions. Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology, 41(4), 265-269. doi:10.1111/1440-1681.12218

ZAVALIY, A. G. (2012). On Rational Amoralists. Journal For The Theory Of Social Behavious, 42(4), 365-384. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5914.2012.00503.x

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington DC: Neuropsychological Evidence of Impaired Cognitive Empathy in Euthymic Bipolar Disorder. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences,21(1), 59-67.doi: 10.1176/jnp.2009.21.1.59

Lois, G., Linke, J., & Wessa, M. (2014). Altered Functional Connectivity between Emotional and Cognitive Resting State Networks in Euthymic Bipolar I Disorder Patients. Plos ONE, 9(10), 1-9. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107829

Frances, A. (2014). The Mind of the Mass Murderer. Psychiatric Times, 31(7), 1-2.


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