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Arts & Entertainment

Grad Student Takes $500,000, Passes on Chance to Win $1 Million

 Ogi Ogas (GRS’07) ended his run at the half-million mark on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Ogi Ogas (GRS’07) took the money and ran, wisely. But then, Ogas does everything wisely. Appearing as a contestant on the TV show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the BU grad student declined the challenge of answering the million-dollar question, choosing instead to hang on to the $500,000 he had already won. Had Ogas opted to answer the million-dollar question and gotten it wrong, he would have walked away with only $25,000.

Ogas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Arts and Sciences cognitive and neural systems department, says his knowledge of human memory and decision-making processes was essential to his performance on the show. Prior to the taping, he and his colleagues planned and determined strategies and techniques for Ogas’ national television debut. For example, the group developed a search algorithm to help his “phone-a-friend” lifeline, a fellow student, find the answer quickly and efficiently.

In preparing for the show, Ogas also used the concept of state-dependent memory, the idea that the mind performs better when it is in the same state in both the learning and the testing environment. “Since I knew I was going to be anxious in the chair,” he says, “when I was practicing for the show, I drank a lot of coffee to create that same level of arousal I would feel on the show.”


The segment of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire aired November 7 and showed Ogas listening to the million-dollar multiple-choice question: “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 said several times that he believed the answer was William, but he was not confident enough to chance losing almost half a million dollars. The correct answer was William.