Dr. John J. Ratey
A User’s Guide to the Brain by Dr. John J. Ratey explains that: “we have learned that the brain’s neural networks respond in a pattern that is established by past experience: the more often a specific pattern is fired in response to a stimulus, the more firm the nerve assembly becomes”. Alex is treated to this procedure for two weeks and, by subjecting Alex to continuous sessions of brainwashing, the scientists behind the Ludovico technique successfully manipulate Alex’s consciousness by overwhelming his visual senses. After undergoing a public demonstration, Dr. Brodsky proudly exclaims, “He [Alex] will be your true Christian…ready to turn the other cheek, ready to be crucified rather than crucify, sick to the very heart at the thought even of killing a fly”. The inclusion of the nausea inducing injection forces Alex’s consciousness, on a physiological level, to create a connection between negative behavior and sickness. Ratey states, “Experience colors perception”. Ratey also points out the importance of “attentional specificity” when examining visual perception. Attentional specificity is a filtering system that “provides the brain with an intrinsic mechanism for shutting down inputs when they are repetitive, unnecessary, or should be ignored”. This prevents the consciousness for becoming overwhelmed by visual stimuli. On the other hand, Alex is forced to take in all visual stimuli and a negative impact takes place. Alex’s free will is replaced with a distorted consciousness. Essentially, Alex’s conditioned consciousness functions in a rigid way.
Ratey’s premise that the repetition of patterns shapes a person’s consciousness and their behavior is an idea that Rita Carter agrees with—to a certain extent. In her book, Exploring Consciousness, Carter explores the impact of visual perception on behavior. In the chapter “A Stream of Illusion” Carter prefaces by reporting that “sight plays a huge part in human consciousness, and visual perception is probably better understood than any other sort, so it is a good place to start”. Carter explains that “the interesting consequences of this view of sensation is that it suggests that if you could ‘beam into’ a person’s brain a stimulus that produces the changes we expect from, say, a red-related action, the person would see ‘red’ unfolds in time, and the construction of our experience depends on merging the consciousness of one moment with that of the next”. The Ludovico technique ‘beams’ visual stimuli into Alex’s brain with the intent of modifying his violent and sexual nature. Carter contends that “there is a problem, though, with this idea of evolved consciousness. If it is like it is because being that way is more useful than it being another way, it implies that consciousness itself— rather than the brain mechanisms associated with it—has an effect on behavior. Alex’s interior monologue is consistent with Carter’s claim because the Ludovico technique has not drastically changed his consciousness; Alex still has thoughts of sex and violence. When the ‘lardy’ man has Alex on his knees, Alex laments: “And, my brothers, believe it or kiss my sharries, I got down on my knees and pushed my red yahzick [tongue] out a mile and a half to lick his grahzny [dirty] vonny [smelly] boots”. Alex is well aware that he is engaging in a self-deprecating act but he is powerless. The nausea connected with thoughts of violence prevails and the protagonist is at the mercy of his aggressor. Right after the ‘lardy’ man, Alex comments on how he would give the topless lady the old “in-and-out” but refrains when he starts to violently cough. However, this ‘illusionary nature of vision’ is hardly enough to change the thought process of an individual. Alex’s consciousness may have been manipulated but, until there is a physical action, the changes will be temporary. Carter emphasizes that “consciousness itself is not (apparently) a physical force and only a physical force can affect a physical system and thus change its behavior”. In effect, Burgess novel dramatizes the claim that Carter is making—consciousness can be manipulated but the effect is hardly permanent.
Alva Noë’s view on visual perception and consciousness agrees with Ratey’s claims. Noë provides a philosophical view of consciousness in his book Out of our Heads. Noë proposes that consciousness is dynamic and grows depending on interactions with the external world. Noë affirms that “to understand consciousness in humans and animals, we must look not inward, into the recesses of our insides; rather, we need to look to the ways in which each of us, as a whole animal, carries on the processes of living in and with and in response to the world around us”. Noë takes an adamant stance against the idea that the brain is solely responsible for consciousness. Noë continues to insist that “we are not merely recipients of external influences, but are creatures built to receive influences that we ourselves enact; we are dynamically coupled with the world, not separate from it”. This statement is in line with Ratey’s notion that the “act of perception is a lot more than capturing an incoming stimulus. Ratey suggests that it requires a form of expectation”, which, for Alex, is imposed. Ratey asserts that the mere presence of external stimuli is not enough to cause a substantiated change in consciousness; so long as the individual has the opportunity to prepare for the incoming stimuli. The claims of Noë and Ratey are consistent with the temporary effects of the Ludovico technique. The internal and external realities of Alex did not agree, resulting in a fruitless procedure.