I am reading a book "Denying to the grave". In one paragraph, the author writes:

Always ask "Compared to what?" and "What is in the rest of the boxes?" when someone makes a claim about the risk or safety about anything regarding our health.

I don't think I really understand the contextual meaning of "what is in the rest of the boxes". I searched for the definition on the Internet or tried looking it up in dictionaries but I have found nothing.

I guess "the boxes" here have something to do with risk assessment. So what do they refer to?

  • other options to check? you check the boxes right? Those are your choices or your options.
    – Cardinal
    May 18, 2019 at 15:41
  • 1
    There isn't enough context for a proper answer. I assume the sentence is in relation to a statement similar to "this box is safe," and that the scenario being described is that there are several boxes, one of which is being discussed. In which case (and as I assume), boxes has its literal meaning. If not, then boxes is being used as a metaphor. (And it's still the normal definition of boxes that should be understood.) May 18, 2019 at 16:35
  • "What is in the rest of the boxes?" appears to be psycho-babble (i.e., jargon used in popular psychology) for "What alternative points-of-view should be considered? May 18, 2019 at 17:01

1 Answer 1


This is a metaphor. The metaphor may have been established in previous paragraphs, but even with this limited context the meaning is guessable.

There are various game shows in which a person chooses to open box which contains some money, they then have to decide if they want to keep that money or swap it for the contents of another box. Unless you know what is in the other boxes you can't make an informed choice (so the drama of the game show is when a person refuses $1000 and either wins $100,000 or only wins $1)

In the context of risk assessment, it means you should consider the risks of other options. For example, taking a medicine has the risk of side effects, but the alternative (not taking medicine) has the risk of staying ill for longer. There is no way you can make an informed choice about the medicine unless you also know about the risks and benefits of the alternatives. The "boxes" are the alternatives and you should ask "what is in the other boxes" to ask what the risk related to alternatives are.

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