Does your avatar‘s appearance influence your real life appearance? The August 2009 issue of Journal of Virtual Worlds Research contains an article titled, Does this Avatar Make Me Look Fat? that suggests it might.
Using a technique called "In-Avatar Interviewing," the interviewers’ avatars interviewed other avatars in-world. This allows interviewers to completely control not only the interview environment, but their own appearances, to minimize unintended influences on their subjects. It’s also considerably less expensive to conduct interviews in a virtual world rather than face-to-face.
The surveys are ongoing and the results reported in this article are preliminary, but it does raise the tantalizing possibility that changing your avatar appearance may lead you to make corresponding changes in your physical appearance.
There are of course limits. Having a furry avatar won’t lead to a person’s physical body growing a tail and furry coat, and building up those massive muscles favored by many male avatars will still take a just as much real world hard work as it will for anyone else. And so far, this research is too preliminary to draw any conclusions.