Ogi Ogas

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Ogi J. Ogas
Born Johnathan Raymond Ogas
Around 1971 (age 44–45)
Nationality American
Occupation Blogger, writer, theoretical neuroscientist
Known for Game show contestant

Ogi Jonathan Ogas (born ca. 1971)[1] is an American computational neuroscientist, book author, and game show contestant. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Harvard University School of Education,[2] project manager and co-investigator for the Individual Mastery Project at the Harvard University School of Education,[3] and a senior scientist at the Center for Individual Opportunity.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ogas grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and is a graduate of Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.[1] Ogas graduated from Boston University in May 2009 with a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience. He was a United States Department of Homeland Security Fellow, which funded his graduate studies.[1][5][6]


Science of the Individual[edit]

Ogas is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard University School of Education, where he conducts research in the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual.[7] The interdisciplinary science of the individual draws upon scientific and mathematical findings that demonstrate it is not possible to draw meaningful inferences about individual human beings using group-based statistical averages. He worked with Todd Rose on The End of Average, a book about the science of the individual, which will be published by Harper One in January, 2016. He is the Project Head and, along with Todd Rose, co-investigator for the Harvard Mastery Project, a long-term study that uses methodologies from the science of the individual to investigate the development of individual excellence.


A Billion Wicked Thoughts[edit]

May 2011 saw the release of a science non-fiction book by Ogas and his colleague Sai Gaddam, A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World's Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire (Dutton Adult, a division of Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-525-95209-1).

The book was marketed as a study on "the private activities of millions of men and women around the world, unveiling a revolutionary and shocking new vision of human desire that overturns conventional thinking" by "two maverick neuroscientists" who used "the world's largest psychology experiment--the Internet" for their research.[8] A Billion Wicked Thoughts originally had the working title of Rule 34: What Netporn Teaches Us About The Brain.[9] A year-long exhibit at the Museum of Sex was based on the research of Billion Wicked Thoughts, “Universe of Desire.”

Prior to publication, the book and its authors were criticized by some bloggers for their non-standard research methodology, aspects of their core premise, and lack of institutional review.[10][11][12][13] The authors addressed this after publication, saying, "IRB oversight applies to human subjects research with federal funding, or that takes place at an institution with federal funding. We intentionally conducted our research outside of academia, without federal funding, in order to remain independent from the fierce tempest of ideological, social, and political pressures that besets the contemporary study of sexuality."[14]

Upon publication, the book received widespread media attention and a polarized response from reviewers.[15][16][17][18][19][20] Kirkus Reviews described A Billion Wicked Thoughts as an "enjoyable, exhaustive and often insightful look at what turns on."[21] The New York Times suggested that the book was valuable "not as a scientific tract, but as a cultural document.".[22] Discussing the research's scope, a review stated "The researchers wrote a computer program to capture sexual queries in publicly listed catalogs of Web searches. They later categorized the searches and did some number crunching. They estimate that their research reflects the online behavior of 100 million people. The survey also avoids the usual guinea pigs: undergrads looking for college credit. There are limitations to this mode of sex research, though. The results reflect people's fantasies -- not necessarily sexual acts that they engage in. Also, it's worth keeping in mind that this data exposes the erotic minds of those who seek out titillation on the Web; we don't hear from those who explore their sexual imagination offline."[23]

There was also widespread reaction to the book within academia and sex-related professions, particularly professionals who work with the treatment of sexual abusers. A review in Evolutionary Psychology described the book as a "provocative and informative read." [24] A review in the Archives of Sexual Behavior described the arguments presented in the book as "compelling explanations", but with some examples being a "clunky fit within this explanatory framework". The reviewers suggested that "women readers might gain a greater understanding of why certain types of sexual stimuli...are nirvana for many men."[25] Ogas and his co-author, Sai Gaddam, have since given talks about A Billion Wicked Thoughts and presented related research at academic and general-interest conferences.[26][27][28][29]

Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry[edit]

Ogas is the co-author of Shrinks (Little, Brown and Company, 2015, ISBN 978-0316278867), along with former president of the American Psychiatric Association and current chair of the Columbia Department of psychiatry, Jeffrey Lieberman. Shrinks traces the field from its birth as a mystic pseudo-science through its adolescence as a cult of "shrinks" to its late blooming maturity—beginning after World War II—as a science-driven profession that saves lives. It includes case studies and portraits of the professionals of the field from Sigmund Freud to Eric Kandel.

Shrinks received a starred review in Kirkus[30] and was a New York Times Book Review & Editors' Choice.[31]

Unlocking the Sexy in Surrender: Using the Neuroscience of Power to Recharge Your Sex Life[edit]

Ogas published the e-book Unlocking the Sexy in Surrender[32] with Dr. Gaddam and with sex therapist Dr. Marianne Brandon in 2014. The book combines the research from A Billion Wicked Thoughts with the clinical experience of Dr. Brandon to explain the dissatisfaction many contemporary women feel with their sex life in their long-term relationships.

The End of Average[edit]

Ogas collaborated with Todd Rose on the science non-fiction book The End of Average: How We Succeed in A World That Values Sameness (Harper One, ISBN 978-0062358363) that is due to be published in January, 2016. The book describes three key “principles of individuality” derived from the science of the individual: the principle of the jagged profile, the principle of context, and the principle of pathways. The book suggests that the average is a statistical myth, and presents “a new way of understanding and maximizing everyone’s potential.”

Game show appearances[edit]

$1 Million (15 of 15) - No Time Limit
Which of these ships was not one of the three taken over by colonists during the Boston Tea Party?
• A: Eleanor • B: Dartmouth
• C: Beaver • D: William
Ogas's $1,000,000 question

Ogas won $500,000 on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that aired on November 8, 2006, using his cognitive science research to guide his game strategy.[1][33]

Ogas had a quite strong hunch on his $1,000,000 question about the Boston Tea Party (shown), tentatively eliminating three of the choices, but ultimately decided to walk away because of the large amount of money at risk ($475,000 of his $500,000). His hunch was correct.[34][35] Since playing, he has appeared 22 times as the syndicated show's "Ask The Expert" Lifeline.

Ogas was also a contestant on Grand Slam, which aired in August and September 2007.[36] He stated that after feeling the intense emotional pressure on Millionaire, he developed a new suite of cognitive techniques for Grand Slam, including calming techniques as well as mathematical, verbal, and mnemonic heuristics derived from his brain research.[37] He defeated former Millionaire contestant Nancy Christy in his first-round game, and defeated then all-time game show winnings record holder and Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter in his second round of play. Ogas then defeated former Twenty-One champion David Legler in the semifinals before losing to Ken Jennings in the final. More recently, he has appeared on ABC's newest game show 500 Questions as one of the challengers.


  1. ^ a b c d ""Final Answer" Pays Off Big Time for Former DHS Fellow", ORISE News (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education), November 15, 2006 
  2. ^ Harvard University School of Education
  3. ^ Individual Mastery Project at the Harvard University School of Education
  4. ^ Center for Individual Opportunity
  5. ^ Boston University Graduate Student Named One Of First 100 Homeland Security Fellows In Nation, Boston University, September 4, 2003 
  6. ^ Ogi Ogas, Ph.D., Psychology Today, retrieved December 17, 2014 
  7. ^ Laboratory for the Science of the Individual
  8. ^ Marketing copy at book overview page at Penguin US website.
  9. ^ See comment at Pitching An Agent: Nonfiction Books That 'Change Lives' at MediaBistro.com, June 30, 2009, and Rule 34: What Netporn Teaches Us About The Brain at Neurocritic, September 5, 2009
  10. ^ Wearing the Juice: A Case Study in Research Implosion by Nate Peperell at Rough Theory, September 2, 2009
  11. ^ The curious case of the game show neuroscientists, or how NOT to research an online community by Alison Macleod, September 3, 2009
  12. ^ Sex, Lies and IRB Tape: Netporn to SurveyFail by Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology.net, September 6, 2009.
  13. ^ SurveyFail redax: Downey adds to Lende by Greg Downey at Neuroanthropology.net, September 7, 2009.
  14. ^ The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts Answer Your Questions post at the Freakonomics blog, May 28, 2011.
  15. ^ McLellan, Diana (July 15, 2011). ""A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals about Human Desire" by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  16. ^ Landau, Elizabeth (May 9, 2011). "Inside women's sexual brains, preferences and porn". CNN.com. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ Bennett, Jessica (April 24, 2011). "Surfing for Sex: What Does It Reveal About Desire?". Newsweek. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ Szalavitz, Maia (May 19, 2011). "Q&A: The Researchers Who Analyzed All the Porn on the Internet". Time. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  19. ^ Schaub, Michael (June 7, 2011). "Insane Science: 5 New Books That Explain The Brain". NPR. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  20. ^ Kennedy, Brendan (May 10, 2011). "What we want when nobody's watching?". The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Kirkus Review". Kirkus Reviews. February 23, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  22. ^ Yang, Wesley (July 29, 2011). "Sex, Lies and Data Mining". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  23. ^ What the Internet reveals about sexual desire by Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon.com, May 2, 2011
  24. ^ Shackelford, Todd. "What Our Sexy Past Reveals About Our Erotic Present" (PDF). Evolutionary Psychology 11 (1): 238–242. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  25. ^ Vasey, Paul; Abild, Miranda. "A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships". Archives of Sexual Behavior (Springer) 421 (6): 1101–1103. doi:10.1007/s10508-013-0170-5. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  26. ^ Shouldering Responsibility: Making Society Safer (PDF). Chicago, Illinois, USA. November 1, 2013. 
  27. ^ Ideacity 2012. Toronto, Canada. June 18, 2012. 
  28. ^ INK 2012 In Association With TED. Pune, Maharashtra, India. October 12, 2012. 
  29. ^ SSTAR: Sex Research And Therapy In Transition (PDF). Baltimore, Maryland, USA. April 5, 2013. 
  30. ^ Kirkus; Shirnks
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ Unlocking the Sexy in Surrender; Amazon
  33. ^ "The Decider", Boston Globe, November 11, 2006 
  34. ^ "OK, Ogi! Waltham man wins $500K on game show", Boston Globe, November 8, 2006 
  35. ^ "Who Wants To Be A Cognitive Scientist Millionaire? A Researcher Uses His Understanding Of The Human Brain To Advance On A Popular Quiz Show", Seed Magazine, November 9, 2006 
  36. ^ Gonzalez, John (October 2007), "The Gonz Show: Ogi Ogas", Boston Magazine 
  37. ^ GrandSlamShow.com discussion boards 

External links[edit]