Neuroscientists Analyze Searches On Sexual Desires


Search queries offer a new source of data for many things, even what computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam call "true" sexual desires. The new book, "A Billion Wicked Thoughts," co-authored by the duo and scheduled for release on May 5, analyzes 1 billion Web searches from around the world.

Aside from the United States, search data now makes it possible to look at sexual behavior with clarity in Saudi Arabia, Japan, India, Germany, Italy, Russia, and other countries.

To understand sexual desire and human behavior, Ogas and Gaddam tapped search queries and data from Dogpile and other sources, such as AOL, Google, Bing and Yahoo, applying the same method used to analyze memory and language. "There was just no other way to do this," Ogas said, suggesting that search data gives scientists a window into the true sexual desires. "The science of sex is proceeding very slowly because no one is honest about what they like and want to do" unlike other human behaviors, such as shopping.

Ogas, a Department of Homeland Security fellow who also conducted biodefense research at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, views Internet search data as a "big untapped source" of behavioral data. Through the search data, the two revealed findings that he said "overturn" conventional wisdom. For example, more men query searches for overweight women -- those with about 10 extra pounds -- three times more often compared with underweight women. It turns out that aside from searching for young "hot" women, men also search for women over the age of 50.

When asked whether advertisers could build an audience segment for targeting online ads based on the book's findings, Ogas said the adult industry can, because they are heavily dependent on Internet search information. Since most marketers want to stay away from adult content, it's "highly doubtful" the findings could make the correlation between keyword searches such as "breasts" and an automaker when it comes to men. In men, sexual interests are not necessarily related to demographics, but rather formed during adolescence.

Women are a different story.

Their sexuality is more socially influenced, Ogas said. "One very popular form of women's erotica online is known to attract women who are more liberal," Ogas said. "With women, you have a chance of relating their sexual interests to demographic information, but it would be a weak connection."

Ogas and Gaddam will apply the same approach to study human aggression. The two are in the middle of working on the second book, "analyzing search data to illuminate the software of human aggression." The book is scheduled for release in the summer of 2012. The latest book, "A Billion Wicked Thoughts," is being billed as the first comprehensive research in the field of sexuality since the Kinsey Reports published in the mid-20th century, according to Ogas.

Ogas said the means to analyze sexual behavior through search data reflects the "uncensored truthfulness" offered by the Internet. The neuroscientists view the search findings on human desire as the purest form of data.


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