The major theme of the movie can be interpreted as a major revulsion of psychological behaviorism as developed by B. F. Skinner and John Watson. Behaviorism states that behavior is a continuous learning process reinforced by reward systems. It also states that personality is nothing but a reflection of behavior, since the latter defines the former. In the movie, there were several attempts to reject the idea of behaviorism. Here are as follows: 1) At some point in the movie, Alex and his friends attempted to use “narcotic mixed milk” in order to improve their “violence instinct;
2) Alex sexual violence in the movie was deliberate and out of consciousness. It was the case when Alex wounded the “cat lady” after a sexual orgasm; 3) When Alex was in jail, he developed the so-called “Ludovico technique”, a method of rehabilitating criminals. When the minister of the interior requested the jail for potential candidates for the treatment, Alex volunteered. During the treatment, he consciously attempted to stop it by showing that the treatment already cured him (in fact, he knew the loopholes of the treatment); 4) And, after some psychological tests in the prison, he realized that he was never criminally repulsive.
He began to like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Alex realized that he has no aversion with the music. In fact, he realized that the treatment itself never changed his behavioral outlook, since it was deliberate. The Ludovico technique is a method which uses operant conditioning (which was implied in the movie) (reinforcer). The purpose of the technique was to put the “patient” in a condition to which he/she has aversion. In this way, the “patient” would avoid such circumstance. A repeated application of the technique to the same patient would therefore be therapeutic.
The main character though has a means to reinforce his violent behavior (reinforcement). Alex knew the problems of his technique and constructed loopholes to avoid it. In a sense, Alex became the primary reinforcer. He controlled the patterns of his own behavior by systematic analysis of the consequences of his behavior. Moreover, Alex knew that the Ludovico technique would never alter his actions precisely because he reinforced his own behavior. Now, what is the probability that Alex criminal behavior may occur again after reinforcement? The answer lies on the concept of operant response.
In the case of Alex, the probability is close to 1. Alex knew that the technique would never change his behavior. In fact, he created the technique in order to “retain” his behavior. Moreover, because the technique proved ineffective in Alex’s case, then one may assume that Alex’s behavior did not really change. His response to the technique was deliberate and orchestrated. It is possible to say that the Ludovico technique failed to change Alex’s behavior because of faulty interval schedules. Interval schedules require a minimum period of time that must pass between consecutive reinforced responses.
The interval should neither be too short nor too long. If the interval is short, then the “patient” may become entrenched with his/her behavior (nothing will change). If the interval is long, then the “patient” will be used to the technique (and therefore can possibly resist the technique). In the case of Alex, the interval schedule is close to short. It is possible that Alex may have been entrenched in his violent behavior because of the short interval schedule. Reference A Clockwork Orange. 1971. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.