Aims & objectives: Natural scenes are frequently associated to positive emotion, e.g., in both restoration research and recent research in affective priming. In the majority of this research, naturalness and preference go hand in hand. In the present research an affective priming paradigm was employed to explore whether these effects should be attributed to the beauty of the scenes, or rather to the naturalness of the scenes. Background: In two recent studies, Hietanen and colleagues (Hietanen & Korpela, 2004; Korpela, Klemettilä & Hietanen) demonstrated that natural environmental scenes triggered automatic affective reactions. However, for the environmental scenes used in their studies naturalness and preference covaried (i.e., were either both high, medium or low). Also in other literature, the distinction between aesthetic qualities and naturalness often remains unclear when studying restorative effects of natural scenes. The central focus of the current study was to explore the independent contribution these two factors to beneficial effects of nature. This investigation is interesting, both from a theoretical viewpoint (which psychological mechanisms are responsible for restorative effects of nature?), and from a practical one (could beautiful yet non-natural scenes produce similar effects?). Method: The present study closely followed the affective priming paradigm employed by Hietanen and colleagues. Twenty-eight participants viewed environmental scenes of either urban or natural environments, varying on rated beauty. These prime stimuli were followed by pictures of faces from MacArthur Face Stimuli set (Coltheart & Palermo, 2004), representing males and females, expressing joy or anger. Response times of the recognition of affect were measured and used as dependent variables. Findings: Results showed that preference has no influence on the recognition of facial affect, whereas natural environments do facilitate the recognition of happy faces and even more strongly inhibit the recognition of negative affect. This corroborates the findings of the earlier priming studies, but in addition seems to indicate that automatic affective reactions to natural scenes should be attributed to the naturalness of these scenes rather than to their aesthetic qualities. Implications and directions for future research will be discussed.