The Psychopathy of Ted Bundy a Notorious Serial Killer
Ted Bundy’s crimes committed in secrecy eventually brought him into the public spotlight and kept him there for over three decades. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution, yet the public’s fascination with him continues. Recently, Netflix’s film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile,” starring Zac Efron, brought Bundy back into the public eye.
The Puzzle of Bundy’s Double Life
Many people are still puzzled about how Bundy was able to attend college, build a political career, and have a long-term relationship while also assaulting and murdering at least 30 women between 1973 and 1978. Psychologists, including Thomas Widiger, have been studying Bundy for years to understand how he was able to live a double life.
The Study of Bundy’s Psychology
Widiger’s research focuses on the benefits of a dimensional trait model, specifically the five-factor model, for identifying and describing people with personality disorders, including Bundy. Widiger argues that Bundy is a good illustration of how the categorical descriptions of a person do not entirely provide an accurate or individualized portrayal. He adds that Bundy failed to have some of the features of the prototypic psychopath.
While Bundy was a unique serial killer, his case is not uncommon, according to Widiger. He explains that psychopaths are emotionally stable, deceptive, and able to wear “a mask of sanity.” There is probably a serial murderer somewhere in the United States at any given moment, and they can be challenging to catch because there is no personal connection between them and the victim.
Bundy’s Mental Health and Psychiatric State
Bundy was diagnosed as a psychopath during his mental health evaluation on trial for the Florida murders. Psychopathy falls under the antisocial personality disorder category, and people with this disorder have a long-term pattern of violating the rights of others without any remorse.
“My research on Ted Bundy is more concerned with demonstrating the benefits of a dimensional trait model (the five-factor model in particular) for identifying and describing persons with personality disorders,” he explained. “Ted Bundy is a good illustration of this in that the categorical descriptions of Ted do not entirely provide an accurate or individualized portrayal. He fails to have some of the features of the prototypic psychopath.” Thomas Widiger
Widiger’s research shows that Bundy had the following traits:
- antagonism (deceptive, manipulative, callous, exploitative and arrogant)
- extraversion (engaging and assertive)
- high conscientiousness (skilled, competent, thoughtful, organized and diligent); and
- low neuroticism (glib charm and fearlessness
Bundy was diagnosed as a psychopath, a personality trait that falls under “antisocial personality disorder,” by Hervey Cleckley, who is considered to be the “Father of Psychopathy.” Widiger states that Cleckley’s analysis is mostly accurate.
However, Bundy would also be diagnosed with necrophilia, paraphilia and sadism more precisely.
What does it mean to define Bundy as a “successful” psychopath?
Widiger has come to the conclusion, there are “successful” psychopaths — people who have the core characteristics of a psychopath (that is, the traits of antagonism), yet somehow manage to succeed in exploiting others while avoiding punishment.
“I would consider Ted to be a successful psychopath, because of his traits of high rather than low conscientiousness.” – Thomas Widiger
Though Bundy was executed three decades ago, Widiger believes continued research is a useful tool for learning more and dealing with predatory psychopaths.
Widiger’s analysis of Bundy’s personality traits provides a deeper understanding of how he was able to lead a double life and evade law enforcement for so long. Bundy’s ability to charm and manipulate others allowed him to succeed in exploiting his victims, while his high conscientiousness allowed him to avoid getting caught. Widiger emphasizes that Bundy’s success as a psychopath does not make him unique. There are likely many psychopaths living among us who are able to avoid detection due to their lack of personal connections to their victims and their ability to deceive with ease.
Furthermore, Widiger’s research on Bundy highlights the importance of understanding personality disorders and their underlying traits. By using a dimensional trait model like the five-factor model, psychologists can more accurately identify and describe individuals with personality disorders and develop effective treatments for these disorders.
In conclusion, Ted Bundy’s crimes and his complex personality continue to fascinate and puzzle people today, more than 30 years after his execution. Through the study of his case, we can gain a better understanding of psychopathy and the traits that make someone a successful psychopath. This knowledge can help us better identify and treat individuals with personality disorders, and ultimately, prevent future tragedies.
While there is still much to learn about psychopaths, the continued study of infamous cases like Bundy’s can help experts better understand the nature of their disorder and develop more effective strategies for dealing with those who exhibit such traits. In the meantime, the public remains fascinated with Bundy’s story, which has been the subject of countless books, documentaries, and films. Despite the passage of three decades since his execution, Bundy’s crimes and the enigma of his personality continue to captivate and horrify people around the world.