Early in a scientific debate, before much evidence has accumulated, why are some scientists inclined toward one position and other scientists toward the opposite position? We explore this issue with a focus on scientists' views of the ‘imagery debate’ that unfolded in Cognitive Science during the late 1970s and early 1980s. We examine the possibility that, during the early years of this debate, researchers' views were shaped by their own conscious experiences with imagery. Consistent with this suggestion, a survey of 150 psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists showed that those who experienced their own visual imagery as vivid and picture-like recall being more sympathetic in 1980 to the view that, in general, images are picture-like. Similarly, those who have vivid images and who regularly use their images in cognition were more inclined to believe that issues of image vividness deserve more research. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.