This study examined whether beliefs about face recognition ability differentially influence memory retrieval in older compared to young adults. Participants evaluated their ability to recognise faces and were also given information about their ability to perceive and recognise faces. The information was ostensibly based on an objective measure of their ability, but in actuality, participants had been randomly assigned the information they received (high ability, low ability or no information control). Following this information, face recognition accuracy for a set of previously studied faces was measured using a remember–know memory paradigm. Older adults rated their ability to recognise faces as poorer compared to young adults. Additionally, negative information about face recognition ability improved only older adults’ ability to recognise a previously seen face. Older adults were also found to engage in more familiarity than item-specific processing than young adults, but information about their face recognition ability did not affect face processing style. The role that older adults’ memory beliefs have in the meta-cognitive strategies they employ is discussed.