Babies May Read Your Poker Face

But nurture isn't everything. Scientists also have found that genetics may play a role.

For example, scientists recently have discovered that the 5-HTT gene, which codes for the powerful brain chemical serotonin, can determine the risk of depression. Each person has two copies of the gene, called alleles, and each copy can vary in length. Get a short-short combination of 5-HTT and you're at higher risk for depression than if your get a long-long combination.

Nelson thinks 5-HTT also may influence a child's ability to decipher emotions on faces.

"If you have short-short, you show more brain activity for fearful faces than if you had long-long," said Nelson.

Despite all of Nelson's discoveries, he said his lab and others have yet to try testing a child's ability to recognize deceit. According to other scientists, it may be difficult to study lying through facial recognition alone.

"There is no facial indicator of deception. There's nothing that you do with your face when you're lying that you don't do at other times," said Jeff Cohn, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Deception Is Difficult to Read in a Face

Cohn works with computer scientists to classify, analyze and detect emotions on people's faces, including pain and clinical depression. Rather than look at still photographs, Cohn said it's easier to detect deceit through the order and intensity of facial movements.

For example, take a person's smile when they receive a gift.

"If they tell you how much they loved your gift and if the smile is missing the contraction of the sphincter muscle around the eye -- the crow's-feet wrinkles -- the person probably wasn't so keen on your gift," said Cohn.

Cohn uses a method called Facial Action Coding System [FACS] developed by famous researcher Paul Ekman to train students to detect such signals. But Cohn warned it isn't something that can be picked up in a day.

"It is something that can be learned," said Cohn. "When we train people in the lab, typically it would take a semester."

Indeed, elite poker players bet on the difficulty to read deception on a person's face.

"Some people are easier to read than other people you know," said Buchner. "I just try to keep a straight face. Most people can't read physical traits anyway."

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