Ogi Ogas

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Ogi J. Ogas
Born Johnathan Raymond Ogas[citation needed]
Nationality American
Occupation Writer, theoretical neuroscientist
Known for Game show contestant

Ogi Jonathan Ogas is an American writer who received doctoral training as a computational neuroscientist. As of May 2016, he is a visiting scholar at the Harvard University School of Education where he serves as Project Head for the Individual Mastery Project.[1][2] Ogas is also known for his participation in game shows, in particular, the games Grand Slam (2007)[3] and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (2006).[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Ogas was born Johnathan Raymond Ogas,[citation needed][when?] and grew up in Annapolis, Maryland.[5][better source needed] He is a graduate[clarification needed] of Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland.[when?][5] Ogas was awarded a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience by Boston University in 2009.[6] He was a United States Department of Homeland Security Fellow during his graduate studies.[when?][7]


Ogas is a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard University School of Education,[1][2] where he conducts research in the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual.[8][third-party source needed] According to Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas, the science of the individual "relies on dynamic systems theory rather than group statistics. Its research methodology is characterized by 'analyze, then aggregate' ... rather than 'aggregate, then analyze'.... The field obtained its theoretical foundations with the publication of a 2004 paper, 'A Manifesto on Psychology as Idiographic Science: Bringing the Person Back Into Scientific Psychology, This Time Forever,' written by one of the pioneers of the new science, Peter Molenaar."[9]

He is the Project Head for the Individual Mastery Project in the Harvard Graduate School of Education,[1][2] which the Washington Post describes as "aimed at understanding the development of individual excellence."[1]

Written works[edit]

A Billion Wicked Thoughts[edit]

Ogas' non-fiction book A Billion Wicked Thoughts (2011, with Sai Gaddam) analyzed the sexual terms used in web searches by (according to the authors' estimates) approximately 100 million internet users.[10]

There was widespread reaction to the book within academia and professions involved in the study and treatment of sex-related matters, particularly professionals who work in the area of sexual abuse. A review in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted that other research had indicated that 90% of internet search regarding sex was done by males, limiting any search-based protocol to this biased population, but noted that the book offered some "compelling explanations" (although with some being a "clunky fit within [their] explanatory framework").[11] An analytical review in Evolutionary Psychology describes the book as a "provocative and informative read" and Ogas and Gaddam as "entertain[ing] the reader with statistics derived from… searches, in conjunction with personal anecdotes."[12]

Upon publication, the book received widespread media attention and a polarized response from reviewers in the popular press.[13][14][15][16][17][18] Kirkus Reviews described A Billion Wicked Thoughts as an "enjoyable, exhaustive and often insightful look at what turns on."[19] The New York Times suggested that the book was valuable "not as a scientific tract, but as a cultural document.".[20]

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.[21][22][23][24] 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."[25]

Other contributions[edit]

Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry[edit]

Ogas is listed as a contributor to Jeffrey Lieberman's Shrinks[26][full citation needed].[27][28] As advertising prose from the Hatchett Books Group describes it, the book:

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… [including] ...case studies and portraits of the professionals of the field—from Sigmund Freud to Eric Kandel…[29]

Lieberman's Shrinks received a starred review in Kirkus,[30] was a New York Times Book Review & Editors' Choice,[31] and was longlisted for the PEN/E.O.Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.[32]

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.[5][33] Ogas has intimated in interview that he had a strong hunch regarding his final question (about the Boston Tea Party, shown), after tentatively eliminating three of the choices; he 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 Jeffrey Selingo (May 25, 2016). "Is grit overrated in explaining student success? Harvard researchers have a new theory". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Individual Mastery Project at the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual". harvard.edu. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  3. ^ "Grand Slam TV Show". IMDB. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  4. ^ "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Episode Guide". Game Show Favorites. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c ""Final Answer" Pays Off Big Time for Former DHS Fellow" (organizational press release). Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. 2006-11-15. 
  6. ^ "Alumni directory". Boston University Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  7. ^ Carrie Dieringer (September 11, 2003). "Boston U. Student Named Homeland Security Fellow". New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Laboratory for the Science of the Individual". harvard.edu. Retrieved 7 April 2016. [third-party source needed]
  9. ^ Todd Rose and Ogi Ogas (January 17, 2016). "The Faulty Foundation of American Colleges". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  10. ^ What the Internet reveals about sexual desire by Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon.com, May 2, 2011
  11. ^ Vasey, Paul; Abild, Miranda (2013). "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. 
  12. ^ Hummel, Anna; Shackelford, Todd (2013). "What Our Sexy Past Reveals About Our Erotic Present" (PDF). Evolutionary Psychology. 11 (1): 238–242. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Landau, Elizabeth (May 9, 2011). "Inside women's sexual brains, preferences and porn". CNN.com. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  15. ^ Bennett, Jessica (April 24, 2011). "Surfing for Sex: What Does It Reveal About Desire?". Newsweek. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  16. ^ Szalavitz, Maia (May 19, 2011). "Q&A: The Researchers Who Analyzed All the Porn on the Internet". Time. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ Schaub, Michael (June 7, 2011). "Insane Science: 5 New Books That Explain The Brain". NPR. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  18. ^ Kennedy, Brendan (May 10, 2011). "What we want when nobody's watching?". The Toronto Star. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Kirkus Review". Kirkus Reviews. February 23, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  20. ^ Yang, Wesley (July 29, 2011). "Sex, Lies and Data Mining". The New York Times. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  21. ^ Wearing the Juice: A Case Study in Research Implosion by Nate Peperell at Rough Theory, September 2, 2009
  22. ^ The curious case of the game show neuroscientists, or how NOT to research an online community by Alison Macleod, September 3, 2009
  23. ^ Sex, Lies and IRB Tape: Netporn to SurveyFail by Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology.net, September 6, 2009.
  24. ^ SurveyFail redax: Downey adds to Lende by Greg Downey at Neuroanthropology.net, September 7, 2009.
  25. ^ The Neuroscience Behind Sexual Desire: Authors of A Billion Wicked Thoughts Answer Your Questions post at the Freakonomics blog, May 28, 2011.
  26. ^ Little, Brown and Company, 2015, ISBN 9780316278867
  27. ^ The authorship is listed as "Jeffrey Lieberman, with Ogi Ogas."
  28. ^ Lieberman is former president of the American Psychiatric Association and current[when?] chair of the Columbia Department of psychiatry.[citation needed]
  29. ^ "Shrinks". hachettebookgroup.com. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  30. ^ Jeffrey A. Lieberman. "SHRINKS". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  31. ^ "Editors' Choice". The New York Times. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  32. ^ "2016 PEN Literary Awards Longlists". pen.org. Retrieved 7 April 2016. 
  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, archived from the original on November 11, 2007 

External links[edit]