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Criminal Justice

IE Psychiatrist Takes Us Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer

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With the release of last month's Netflix documentary on Ted Bundy, KVCR is taking a look into the serial killer's mind.  KVCR's Benjamin Purper speaks with Loma Linda psyciatrist David Puder in this report.

Ted Bundy was an infamous serial killer who did most of his killing in the 70’s. He confessed to 30 homicides, but the actual number of his victims is unknown.

Psychiatrist David Puder says Bundy likely had something called the Dark Triad.

Puder: “The Dark Triad is a combination of three things; psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.”

The first condition, psychopathy, is marked by low affective empathy – meaning that they can’t feel the experiences of other people.

Puder: “So they have cognitive empathy, they can like read your body language and give you things back that might make it seem like they have empathy, but they're not feeling in their brain the experience of another human being. So they're not picking up your emotions in the way that most of us pick up emotions.”

The next part of the Dark Triad is narcissism.

Puder: “Narcissism is like narcissistic personality disorder, and these people think of only themselves and you know are very sort of focused on their own movement forward in the world, to the detriment of everyone else.”

The last part of the Dark Triad is Machiavellianism.

Puder: “And then Machiavellianism is kind of a way of cognitively viewing the world; when I think of it, I think of House of Cards, you know, and kind of the Machiavellianism of, I'm positioning myself for it, I'm manipulating things, and I'm utilizing people as pawns and as sort of chess pieces in the game to move myself forward in power.”

Puder says Ted Bundy likely had this deadly combination of traits – but he also says not everyone with the Dark Triad becomes a serial killer.

Puder: “Because you could be a high-functioning person and find ways to get your needs met by not hurting people necessarily in the way that a serial killer would. But maybe you end up in the corporate world, or in the political world, and you still have some of these traits and it's helping you move forward, it's helping you achieve your goals and aspirations, but maybe not hurting people directly in the way that a serial killer would.”

Puder says he doesn’t think Bundy had some of the more traditional mental health issues people claimed he had, like schizophrenia.

Purper: “So the schizophrenia, he said he was hearing voices that caused him to do things, but a lot of people who are criminals will sometimes say that something outside of them is causing them to do bad acts, and it's really a denial of what is going on and it's, you know, not taking responsibility. So the schizophrenia, he didn't have any of the negative symptoms, he didn't have the disorganized thought process, he didn't look psychotic in the way that every schizophrenic patient I've ever seen looks psychotic.”

Puder says Bundy likely wasn’t bipolar, either.

Puder: “In terms of bipolar, someone with a true bipolar episode, they can't all of a sudden glue themselves back together and look normal. Someone in a manic state is talking fast, they're not sleeping, the're doing psychotic things sometimes, like eventually mania can go into a more psychotic mania. But they don't just pull themselves together and do incredibly calculated things like he did. So the reason why he probably got diagnosed with that is because there was an effort to get him off of death row.”

Puder also dismisses Bundy’s claim that pornography made him a killer.

Puder: “I don't buy the whole, pornography made Ted Bundy thing.”

Puder says there is a correlation between violent pornography and having negative views towards women. But that doesn’t mean pornography made Bundy into a serial killer.

Puder: “The question is, do people who have low views of women watch violent porn or do people who watch violent porn gain sort of a more callous view towards women? And I think what's important is, if you're a therapist or if you're working with someone like this, is to look more at the views of women and to sort of see if you can start to move them from objectifying women to more of seeing them as individuals, as people, as people of value, and worthy of relationship and connection.”

You can hear more of Puder’s insight by listening to the Psychiatry & Psychotherapy Podcast.