Forensic Psychology Literature Handout on Serial Killers: Ted Bundy
Christina Drakeford
August 20, 2018
Dr/ Samantha Hickman

Forensic Psychology Literature Handout on Serial Killers: Ted Bundy
Case Summary
Ted Bundy was one of the most sadistic and brutal killers that the world has ever known. He was responsible for the murders of approximately thirty individuals in multiple U.S. states. A close look at Bundy’s victims shows he had a certain preference for women victims. For one to understand Ted Bundy’s curious character, they have to understand the motivation behind the shocking actions of such serial killers (Dekle, 2011).
Applicable Theories
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
One of the theories of motivation describing Bundy’s nature is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to the theory, individuals seek to satisfy psychological needs followed by safety. After those two is the need for belonging, esteem, and self-actualization respectively. A feature that stands out in this theory regarding Ted Bundy is the need to belong. As a child, Ted Bundy never got to know the identity of his father. The man disappeared before his mother could give birth. This was one of the many things that invoked feelings of rejection in Bundy that led him to commit murders. Another scarring event in his life occurred when a girl to whom he had grown strongly attached rejected him. This sent him into a wave of anger and vengeance against women who bore her resemblance (Rippo ; Aguilar, 2011).
Another feature of the theory that inspired his actions is the need for esteem. He had worked at the helpline service for a period of time (Rippo ; Aguilar, 2011). However, his kind actions of helping people in need never seemed to get the recognition he deserved. After the murders, he finally got the attention that his actions demanded. Incidentally, evidence of his need for esteem came from his decision to represent himself in court rather than hiring a lawyer to do so. He also kept withholding information while giving numerous interviews about his legendary actions to reach the biggest audience that he could.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors/ERG Theory
Herberg’s intrinsic and extrinsic factors and Alderfer’s ERG theory also give an insight into Ted Bundy’s actions. The approaches bear a strong resemblance to Maslow’s although the former places human needs into three categories. They include needs for existence (hygienic or intrinsic factors), and relatedness and growth (motivators or extrinsic factors) respectively. According to the theorists, human needs increase in intensity the more one satisfy them, especially the high ranking ones. One can relate the hypothesis, particularly extrinsic factors, to Ted Bundy by observing how he continued to increase the number of his victims after the first one. In the growth category, he felt the need to reach his maximum potential. A couple of murders were never enough for him to achieve that feat. Therefore, he engaged in dozens of other killings as a result of the ambition (Dekle, 2011).
Expectancy Learning Theory
The expectancy learning theory also has a close relationship with Ted Bundy’s actions. According to the conjecture, the things that one believes will happen in the future affect their subsequent behavior in the present. In the case of Ted Bundy, this applies in two ways. The first one is that Bundy expected to get closure for the rejection that he suffered through revenge. Consequently, after his first victim, he expected to find satisfaction by killing any woman who rejected him or reminded him of past pain (Michaud, Aynesworth, & Bundy, 2010).
The second way in which this theory manifests itself is through Bundy’s movement across state lines. Ted Bundy was always on the move. After killing a number of women, he would move to another state where he would commit additional murders. This cycle would repeat itself over the years. This is an indication that the serial killer was learning. Incidentally, he expected to get away with murder every time he moved to a different jurisdiction (Dekle, 2011).
Self-Worth Concept
Another theory that comes into play when analyzing Ted Bundy is the self-worth concept. According to the hypothesis, a person’s ability to learn has a direct connection to how they perceive themselves. For instance, individuals who think they are smart will push themselves hard to achieve the best grades in the class. On the other hand, those who believe they cannot perform well in class will invest minimal effort in learning and hardly get surprised if the results prove them right (Gurian, 2011).
In the case of Ted Bundy, he perceived himself as the most cold-blooded individual ever to walk the face of the earth. He said so himself just before undergoing execution. This is an indication that he was aware of the nature of his actions and the type of individual that the world had made him. The action also showed that Bundy felt no remorse for his actions as he had accepted his evil nature (Michaud et al., 2010). Ted Bundy used this murderous persona in learning how to commit other killings as well as evade the long arm of the law.
Social Comparison Theory
Psychologist Leon Festinger came up with the social comparison theory in the year 1954. According to him, people are in a constant search for precise descriptions of themselves. This leads them to use other people, often their peers, as a benchmark when evaluating themselves. This self-evaluation often takes two forms, including upward comparison, where the assessment happens against a better person than them, and the downward type, which takes into account poorly achieving persons (Suls & Wheeler, 2013).
In Ted Bundy’s case, he wanted to become the worst serial killer that the world has ever seen. That is the reason why he confessed to killing twenty-eight people although the number may be higher than that. He committed murders across different states with the aim of going national rather than have his accomplishments confined to a single jurisdiction. Worse still, he tried to get as much publicity as possible when the law finally caught up with him. He would not reveal all of the information that was required of him with the aim of prolonging his time in the limelight. An investigator later revealed that his tactics bought him time before he was finally executed. To top that off, in his final days, he remained defiant. He proclaimed that he was the most heartless individual that American society would ever see instead of showing remorse for his actions (Michaud et al., 2010). This proves that Ted Bundy had set a benchmark for himself against other past, present, and future serial killers.

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Dekle, G. R. (2011). The last murder: The investigation, prosecution, and execution of Ted Bundy. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Gurian, M. (2011). Boys and girls learn differently!: A guide for teachers and parents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Michaud, S. G., Aynesworth, H., ; Bundy, T. (2010). Ted Bundy: Conversations with a killer. New York, NY: Barnes ; Noble.
Rippo, B. M., ; Aguilar, A. (2011). The professional serial killer and the career of Ted Bundy: An investigation into the macabre ID-ENTITY of the serial killer. New York, NY: iUniverse, Inc.
Suls, J., ; Wheeler, L. (2013). Handbook of social comparison: Theory and research. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.


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