Max Coltheart was born in Frankston, near Melbourne, in 1939. After graduating from Bega High School in 1957, he went to the University of Sydney where he studied psychology and philosophy and went on to complete a PhD. He then held academic positions at Monash University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Reading and the University of London before taking a position as Professor of Psychology at Macquarie University in 1987, and then moving from that position to be Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science (an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre) from 2000 until 2009.
He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Academy of Science, and the British Academy.
Macquarie University awarded him a DSc in 2001 and an Honorary LlD in 2010, and he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2010 Australia Day honours for his service to children with learning difficulties.
He is currently working on the cognitive neuropsychology and computational psychology of reading and also on several topics in cognitive neuropsychiatry, especially delusional belief.