BOULDER, CO—Saying such feelings of desire were observed in nearly every individual they studied, psychologists from the University of Colorado released a report Thursday concluding that it is perfectly natural for people to fantasize about sandwiches other than the one presently in their hands.
The study, which surveyed more than 500 adults from a variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, determined that 89 percent of subjects had, at least once during the previous six months, vividly imagined a different sandwich while sitting down at the table with their current hero, hoagie, or po’ boy.
“While many people may find it distressing or shameful when they begin mentally picturing a sandwich that’s nothing like the one they are holding, our findings suggest that these thoughts are, in fact, a completely normal biological impulse,” said Dr. Kelly Sohn, the report’s lead author. “You should by no means feel any sense of regret or embarrassment if you suddenly find yourself mid-bite feeling curious about a particularly striking BLT that caught your eye while you were walking by a café earlier that day or letting your thoughts drift to a pastrami on rye you used to have in college.”
“Even if you’re completely satisfied with the sandwich sitting right in front of you, it is purely an instinctual response to become overwhelmed by a strong desire to taste one that’s very different,” Sohn added. “It’s just human nature.”
According to the research team, it is particularly common for individuals to indulge in fantasies about exotic sandwiches from foreign culinary traditions, like Cubans or Vietnamese bánh mìs, that they have never tried before. Additionally, Sohn said that many subjects reported finding themselves particularly drawn to bigger, beefier sandwiches or those with larger meatballs, often causing them to imagine these alluring features on their own, plainer sandwich when they later sit down for a meal.
Researchers also explained that, on average, a person imagines a different sandwich than the one they’re currently holding about once every week, though a sizable minority of respondents reportedly acknowledged engaging in such fantasies every single time they had lunch.
“It’s important to remember that mentally picturing a piled-high Reuben when you’re eating the same chicken salad sandwich you always get is by and large the product of reflexive brain activity over which you have very little control,” said Sohn, adding that Americans are constantly bombarded with images of picture-perfect subs and idealized pulled pork sandwiches on billboards and television, further explaining the ubiquity of the phenomenon. “In fact, we found that when people are able to unlearn the guilt that is often associated with these harmless fantasies, it can actually make the enjoyment of one’s own sandwich that much more satisfying.”
“The real danger lies in unnecessarily punishing oneself for these thoughts, which can eventually diminish the gratification one derives from eating sandwiches altogether,” she continued.
Sohn further assured the public that it was normal for such fantasies to become extremely vivid and complex. In particular, she noted that 63 percent of subjects had reported that on one or more occasions, they had imagined themselves eating their desired sandwich in an uncommon location, such as in a car, aboard a plane, or even in front of other people in public.
Experts also confirmed that more atypical fantasies, such as eating a sandwich in a hot tub or devouring two sandwiches at once, were, in most cases, perfectly normal as well.
“It’s such a relief to know I’m not some weirdo or a bad person for checking out my brother’s spicy Italian when we went out to lunch a few weeks ago—I felt so guilty about that,” said 42-year-old study participant Craig Worsley, who told reporters he couldn’t help but imagine sinking his teeth into the sandwich’s thick layers of salami, capicola, and provolone until tangy vinaigrette dribbled all down his chin. “Don’t get me wrong, I liked the patty melt I ordered just fine, but man, I looked at his sandwich and couldn’t help but think, ‘Damn, that thing is stacked.’”
Added Worsley, “But now I understand I’m just like any other person out there with a normal, healthy appetite.”
Researchers stated that a small percentage of deeply troubled individuals reported fantasizing about salads while eating their sandwiches, and recommended that anyone experiencing these types of perverse, abnormal thoughts immediately seek psychological counseling.