Ted Bundy was a serial killer that committed many crimes including: murder, rape, necrophilia, kidnapping, theft, auto theft, fraud and impersonation until his execution in 1989 (Dekle, 2011). The PCL-R is an assessment tool that aids a skilled professional to decide the level of psychopathy in a person at risk for psychopathy through a four factor model (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). This essay will demonstrate in Bundy’s case the PCL-R assessment will show he was a primary psychopath because he fit most of the characteristics on the PCL-R; achieving a score of above 30 on a 0-40 scale (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). It will be shown how one could think Bundy was not a psychopath, followed by how Bundy fits the description of a psychopath through four factors: affective, antisocial tendencies, an impulsive lifestyle, and interpersonal traits, and will conclude with the strengths and weaknesses of the PCL-R.
Some may argue that Bundy was not a psychopath because according to the PCL-R assessment he did not live a parasitic lifestyle and it could be disputed that he did show emotional behaviours that a psychopath would not. It could be argued that he borrowed money based on the antisocial tendencies factor within the PCL-R, Bundy had many antisocial tendencies. “She’d awoken one day to find that her three-year-old nephew had placed knives under her covers” (Ramsland, 2013, p. 19). Ted showed early behavioral problems and juvenile delinquency even if it was limited to forgery (Sullivan, 2009). Ted was criminally versatile as he committed fraud, auto theft, kidnapping, necrophilia, rapist, serial killer, theft and impersonation (Sullivan, 2009). Bundy could be seen as also having poor behavioural controls as he continued to kill when he escaped prison rather than hiding out with a normal life (Sullivan, 2009). “Even at a young age, the cracks in his personality were already visible” (Sullivan, 2009, p. 48). Youth are at high risk of becoming psychopaths as adults if they show disturbing behaviour, grow up in an unstable home and being rejected by a peer group at an early age; which Bundy did (Bartol & Bartol, 2014; Sullivan, 2009). Overall, Bundy’s childhood history points to him being a psychopath.
Bundy’s impulsive lifestyle was proof that he was in fact a psychopath. The real reason he could not lay low when he escaped prison was because he had a need for stimulation that could only be brought about with criminal acts. Bundy could be seen as irresponsible since he could never hold a job (Sullivan, 2009). It was evident that he had no long-term goals as he continuously dropped out of school and did things that were only convenient for him at that point in time (Sullivan, 2009). He could also be seen as impulsive because he would execute his crimes in daylight, at night, in large crowds based on what was convenient for him at that time (Sullivan, 2009). Ted’s impulsive lifestyle can be seen as a factor on the PCL-R that identifies him as a psychopath.
Bundy could be seen as having interpersonal traits as outlined in the PCL-R that ultimately point to him being a psychopath. Bundy used his glibness/superficial charm to make people like him and to trick his victims into believing the lies he was telling them to lure them into his trap (McClellan, 2006). “Whenever she caught him in lies, he quickly made her believe that she was to blame” (Ramsland, 2013, p. 20). Liz was one of Bundy’s girlfriends that stayed with him long-term because she fell for his pathological lying and allowed him to manipulate her into believing she was the problem in the relationship. “He resisted an insanity defense and refused to exchange an admission of guilt for life in prison. Instead, Bundy represented himself right into three convictions and death sentences” (Ramsland, 2013, p. 19). This shows his grandiose self-worth because he is overly confident about his abilities even though he did not have the experience necessary to represent him-self. Bundy was also sexually promiscuous as he was a peeper and enjoyed various sexual acts with his victims (Dekle, 2011). Bundy’s interpersonal traits prove that he is a psychopath as outlined by the PCL-R assessment.
Ted would pass the affective factor in the PCL-R deeming him a psychopath. “A gleeful laughter, born out of his sociopathic delight of being able to deprive others of her friendship forever” (Sullivan, 2009, p. 32). This shows Bundy was emotionally shallow, had a lack of empathy and a lack of guilt as he waited to prey on Georgann, one of his victims. “She was now his plaything, and would remain so throughout the afternoon “ (Sullivan, 2009, p. 40). This quotation shows he saw his victims as an object which is why he did not feel guilty or empathy when committing the crimes. Bundy did not accept responsibility for his actions as he denied his crimes in court at first and was never sorry (Sullivan, 2009). When he did admit to the murders he never confessed to how many women he actually murdered (Sullivan, 2009). The affective factor ultimately indicates Bundy is a psychopath.
The PCL-R is valid for identifying psychopaths because its strengths outweigh its weaknesses and the overall understanding of it makes sense in relation to psychopath’s characteristic traits. “The PCL-R can assist with screening, program implementation, and decision making throughout the course of treatment” (Loving, 2002, p. 281). This can be seen as a strength because it guides the process of diagnosing a person as a psychopath. The assessment is done by a trained professional who goes through the PCL-R tediously with each person who is suspected of having psychopathic traits, which means there is a low false positive rate (Loving, 2002). The PCL-R assessment takes time which could be seen as a weakness of the assessment if there is more than one person waiting to go through the assessment (Loving, 2002). Labelling Bundy as a psychopath could make professionals less inclined to help him if they believe there is no treatment that will help him because of the high recidivism rate (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). However, in a study it was shown that it could not be concluded that high scoring psychopaths on the PCL-R are untreatable (D'Silva, Duggan, & McCarthy, 2004). If Bundy committed his crimes in the 21st century, he would still be sentenced to death in Florida where his death would be celebrated like in 1989 (Saltzman, 1995). This is appropriate because if he was eventually released and not named a psychopath he would have continued to kill.
In conclusion, Ted Bundy would have scored high on the PCL-R making him a primary psychopath. Through the various factors: interpersonal, lifestyle, affective and antisocial tendencies, it can be seen that the PCL-R was affective in identifying Ted as a psychopath. There are limitations to the PCL-R test just like any other test out there but the important thing is the test is accurate even though it may be time consuming. Ultimately, the decision to call Bundy a psychopath would have had the same effect on him today as it did when he went to trial and was executed.
Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2014). Criminal Behavior a Psychological Approach (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Dekle, G. (2011). Last Murder: The Investigation, Prosecution, and Execution of Ted Bundy.
Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. D'Silva, K., Duggan, C., & McCarthy, L. (2004). Does Treatment Really Make Psychopaths Worse? A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Personality Disorders, 18(2), pp. 163-177.
Loving, J. L. (2002). Treatment Planning with the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 46(1), pp. 281-293.
McClellan, J. (2006). Case Study: Ted Bundy, an Offender-Based Comparison of Murder Typologies. Journal of Security Education, 2(1), pp. 19-37.
Ramsland, K. (2013). The Many Sides of Ted Bundy. Forensic Examiner, 22(3), pp. 18- 25.
Saltzman, R. H. (1995). "This Buzz Is for You": Popular Responses to the Ted Bundy Execution. Journal of Folklore Research, 32(2), pp. 101-119.
Sullivan, K. M. (2009). Bunder Murders: A Comprehensive History. Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Company.