A Clockwork Orange is a film about a wild and troubled young lad Alex. Alex and his friends (droogs) get a high from inflicting harm upon others. They commit random acts of robbery and rape around London. Alex, as the ringleader, eventually gets caught and is sent to prison. It is in prison that scientists study Alexs violent behavior. Scientists believed that through special training or a program that his evil ways could be fixed. Alex was subjected to a conditioning program that would create an unpleasant physical reaction to just the thought of doing harm to another person.
Skinners theories on behaviorism are introduced in these scenes where the doctors are trying to cure Alex. As part of the conditioning program, Alex is forced to watch films with his eyelids clamped open. His face is then wrapped in electrical straps and wires. He is forced to watch violent scenes and right after those scenes follow crimes that Alex committed with his gang of friends. In the rear of the theater, the doctors watch his reactions and record his behavior. These images of violence in the films induced nausea caused by the injections.
As he watches, a feeling of queasiness slowly takes over. The doctors predicts that he will associate the death experience with the violence he sees. After his first session, the nurse later says that Alex has made a very positive response to the conditioning, and he is being cured. The next day the films are being played with Beethovens music, causing revulsion in Alex. He says it is sinful and unfair to use his favorite piece of music while viewing the videos. When the violence and music are together that is when Alex cries he is being cured of his violent tendencies.
Classical conditioning is what made Alex feel ill whenever he watched the violent video clips. Another example of classic conditioning is when Pavlov had studied dogs that salivate when they taste food. He called the food the unconditioned stimulus and the salivation the unconditioned response. This was unconditioned because salivating was a natural response to the food. Pavlov then rang a bell before the food was presented to the dog. Eventually the dog associated the sound of a bell with food. The bell is a conditioned stimulus and the salivation the conditioned response. Alex had a similar experience to that of the dogs.
The injections he received was an unconditioned stimulus and the sickness was an unconditioned response to the injections. Since the scientists made him watch ultra-violent videos while being injected, he began to associate what he saw with what he felt. The ultra-violence became the conditioned stimulus, and Alexs sickness without the injection became the conditioned response. Skinner however, believes most behavior differs from the classical form of conditioning, he believes in what is called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is different from classical conditioning because it involves actual behavior.
Instead of reflex responses, operant conditioning rewards or punishes a person for actually doing something. In Alexs case, his behavior was performing the violence. What the doctors did was apply negative reinforcement to Alexs negative behavior. Alex would become violently ill when receiving the injections and watching the ultra-violence. Besides feeling sick when he saw any ultra-violence, he felt sick when he tried to perform it too. Alexs experience could be viewed as a combination of classical and operant conditioning, which is a way to modify behavior.
Classical conditioning is what made Alex feel ill whenever he watched the ultra-violence. The injections that he received were an unconditioned stimulus and the following sickness was an unconditioned response to the injection. Since the doctors made him watch ultra-violent video clips while the injection was working, he began to associate what he watched with what he felt. The final result was Alex feeling sick when he was witness to any violence, even without the injection. The violence became the conditioned stimulus, and Alexs sickness without the injection became the conditioned response.