Katherine Norman

Credentials: The impact of pretend play and drama practices on cognition at different stages of development

Position title: Preferred Pronouns: she/her/hers

Email: knorman4@wisc.edu

330 North Orchard Street
Madison WI 53715

Growing out of her practical experiences as an actor and teaching artist, Katherine’s research revolves around both the cognitive mechanisms that underlie pretend play/drama, and the ways that pretending impacts learning and development. Specifically, she is interested in how childhood pretend play and drama practices might affect the interlocking systems of Executive Function and stress/cortisol levels for early elementary students. Her research maintains a particular focus on the potential protective mechanisms in make-believe for students who have experienced trauma and/or long-term stress. The bounded pretend space created by drama and make-believe serves as a fruitful research site for questions regarding how people learn and make meaning. Katherine applies a mixed methods approach to studying make-believe, and works primarily within the fields of cognitive neuroscience and embodied cognition.


  • BFA, Acting, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • MA, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies- Theatre for Youth emphasis, University of Wisconsin-Madison