It is argued that some general problem-solving strategies are a form of biologically primary knowledge (Geary, 2012) in that humans have acquired them over many generations and use them to solve novel problems. On the basis of this classification, cognitive load theory was used to predict that under certain conditions, novice learners could be taught to use such previously acquired strategies to solve a variety of domain-specific problems. To test this prediction, forty-five 14- to 15-year-old students were required to solve geography problems. During acquisition, one group of students was directed to use a general problem-solving strategy based on generating as many ideas as possible, whereas a second group was required to problem-solve conventionally. Results indicated that the general problem-solving group solved more similar and transfer test problems than the conventional problem-solving group. It was concluded that previously acquired general problem-solving strategies can foster both learning and transfer, provided novice learners are directed to use them. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.