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Bizarre Alien Psychology
"Emphatic Blossom at Dawn, like all of the Turusch, was of three minds.
"Literally. The Mind Above, as the Turusch thought of it, was the more primitive, the more atavistic, the original consciousness set that had arisen on the Turusch homeworld perhaps three million of their orbital periods in the past. The Mind Here was thought of as a cascade of higher-level consciousness from the Mind Above, more refined, sharper, faster, and more concerned with the song of intellect.
"And the Mind Below was more recent still, an artifact of both Turusch and Sh'daar technology, a merging of Minds Here into a single, more-or-less unified instrumentality."
Star Carrier: Earth Strike

One of the common ways that humans and aliens differ is that they tend to think in a very different way to humans.

This can manifest in a number of ways. Xenofiction will usually show events from the aliens' perspective and may even explore evolutionary reasons for the minds to develop that way. Works featuring Psychic Powers may have psychics affected oddly by reading alien minds.

This is frequently a trait of Starfish Aliens, but is not limited to them.

Supertrope to Hive Mind and Inhuman Emotion. Related to Planet of Hats, in the sense of a culture all thinking the same way resulting in "one" mindset for everything. Frequently overlaps with Bizarre Alien Biology if the brain producing this psychology is radically different. Expect Blue and Orange Morality to show up a lot. Often highlighted by Humans Through Alien Eyes.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica's race of Incubators seem to operate in an extremely rational Hive Mind. They view emotions as a mental sickness, and do not consider not telling every part of the truth as lying. Simply put, their only concern is to offset the heat-death of the universe.

    Film 
  • The alien race from the movie Galaxy Quest have only recently been exposed to the idea of dishonesty. They cannot imagine any reason to say something that is not the absolute truth, and therefore have no concept of fiction in storytelling, leading them to confuse the cast of a Star Trek-like TV show for real life spacefaring heroes.

    Literature 
  • Star Carrier:
    • The Turusch all have split personalities that are aware of each other. The Mind Above is basically equivalent to a human's lizard brain and rarely says anything other than "Threat! Kill!" The Mind Here is the thinking brain that makes decisions. The Mind Below is the mental representation of the Sh'daar Seeds, implants created by the Sh'daar Masters that network the minds of their client races (and often double as The Political Officer).
    • The Slan are the next-best thing from a Hive Mind. They're still individuals, but their hat is collectivism: Everything they do is for the good of their Community, and taking actions harmful to the Community is considered insane. This informs how they look at war: Slan-on-Slan battles resemble a shoving match and end when one side establishes dominance. The human willingness to fight even in the face of overwhelming odds scares the hell out of them.
    • The Grdoch only ever eat living things. It's not clear if they're incapable of consuming dead flesh or if they simply prefer their prey to squirm a bit. On their homeworld, they have evolved from middle-tier predators, meaning they are both predator and prey. They are also hermaphrodites and are almost always pregnant. When running away from larger predators, they typically toss their young to distract the predators or even snack on them if they're hungry. They don't see anything wrong with making an agreement only to break it when convenient. Eating sentient beings is not a problem, as long as their food is chemically compatible. On a minor note, all their ships are identical in form and function. The only difference might be size, but all their ships have the exact same configurations and systems. Similar to how most life on their homeworld has evolved distributed and redundant organs, their ships are difficult to destroy. Even when you think you've crippled them, they may lie in wait before suddenly attacking from behind. A big part of their racial psychology is a polarized fight-or-flight response. They either go for an all-out attack or they flee. There's almost no middle ground. It confuses the hell out of them when their mad rush doesn't cause humans to turn tail and run.
  • The Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land are reported to have a very different way of thinking than us, including the concept of "grokking" something: to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed, to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.
  • Protectors, Outsiders, Puppeteers, Kzinti and other aliens from Larry Niven's Known Space tales are definitely this to varying degrees. The Outsiders being the really out-there example that nobody else can truly get and who make even the Grogs look understandable (which they pretty much are not). All think differently enough to humans (and each other) to trip themselves and those they interrelate with up, even if they do share some head-space, sometimes. It's made clear again and again that we are this to them, too.
    • The Puppeteers' defining trait is cowardice. Their leader is called "The Hindmost," under the (correct, in their case) assumption that a leader will always place himself in the safest possible position. While modern humans have trouble grokking the danger posed by global warming— likely to affect us within most people's lifetimes— the Puppeteers make far-reaching alterations to their civilization in order to escape a danger not likely to become imminent for millions of years.
    • most of the alien races in the Draco Tavern stories are this, to varying degrees. The Chirps are either benign despots or monumental liars, and no-one has any real idea which; the Gligstithoptok breed human meat in hydroponic tanks for food, but have a strict taboo against actual killing. The Folk lease areas for hunting and are good company afterwards, but too dangerous to approach beforehand; Bazin either has a profound philosophy or is basically an inter-galactic stuntman, and so it goes on. Rick Schumann, the bartender, is also this; he allows the press in when it would profit him and his only real motive is to make money from his clients, and how he ever arrived in his role is never really explained.
  • C. J. Cherryh is fond of exploring alien psychologies in her novels.
    • The Chanur Novels are Xenofiction told from the perspective of a group of vaguely lion-like aliens who pick up a human stowaway.
    • The Foreignerverse is centered around the sole human diplomat to another species. He has received extensive training in the differences between human and alien psychology, so as to avoid misunderstandings that might lead to another war.
  • Inverted in The Mote In Gods Eye. Motie mediators assigned to human emissaries go mad, or Crazy Eddie as they like to call it, trying to comprehend how they act. The closest they get is a sub-class of mediators who act as heavily Capitalist economists.
  • China Miéville:
    • In Embassytown, the Ariekei can't even conceive of metaphorical truth, and, despite learning the language, humanity can't even begin to communicate with them until someone stumbles across the trick of having identical twins speak in two-part harmony. When a pair of folks who aren't identical twins show up who nevertheless seem to be able to communicate, the result begins to drive the aliens mad.
    • In Perdido Street Station, the Weaver's weird mindset is represented by its non-stop, stream-of-consciousness Word Salad monologue. Its psychology becomes a key plot point, as it's perhaps the only living sentient in New Crobuzon whose consciousness the slake-moths can't consume.
  • One of the twists of Peter Watts' Blindsight is the discovery by the human explorers that humanity is pretty much the only race out there with a concept of self, reason and such things as art... which are evolutionary dead-ends that make humans vulnerable to the creatures out there.
  • The villains of one of the Bolo books are a bunch of reptilian matriarchal Blood Knight aliens that are all about killing anything that have "Kill and Eat!" as a battle cry and will not accept any surrender... especially because apparently they have a very different way of thinking of people surrendering than humans. When the female main character of the book decides to be Defiant to the End and keep on staring into the eyes of a taller alien when she approaches to kill her, the alien is puzzled because that pose (on your knees, raising your head) means "please kill me" in her language... and sees it even odder for the alien that a female did such a thing. This confusion keeps the girl alive long enough for the hero (and the titular robot tanks) to pull a Storming the Castle.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • Lower- to mid-level telepaths like Lyta Alexander and Talia Winters don't like to go very deep into alien minds. It's... not a comfortable experience, as demonstrated at least once on the show when a P-5 telepath scans a Narn, and practically craps herself.
    • The B5 novel Clark's Law features the Tuchanq, a race who lose their sense of identity (and then become insane) if they are rendered unconscious. Since they're old enemies of the Narns, when they arrive on station, a riot breaks out, and the security forces use stun guns to break it up. It doesn't end well.
  • The Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation are a hive mind; individual thought is suppressed and all the minds are linked to think as one. This is retconned in Star Trek: First Contact, where the hive has a central queen controlling the thought, who thinks more or less like a human, but the initial concept was very alien.
  • The Prophets in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are disturbed by linear time. They can't understand how a being could live from moment to moment without knowing what will happen in the future. Because to them it's a Timey-Wimey Ball. Sisko resorts to using baseball to explain that humans can act without knowing the future.
  • Doctor Who
    • Time Lords have the ability to psychically connect with other advanced, telepathic beings. They can also wipe minds and put images into someone's head by concentrating and touching them. At one point the Doctor downloads his backstory into someone's mind by head butting him. They have a higher brain function than humans and can process way more at a time-understanding the nature of space-time is basically instinctive.
    • The Ood are a telepathic race that are linked by a telepathic song translated by a hive brain. They have a secondary brain which they hold in their hands at all times. (Don't think too hard about how such an unwieldy physiology could possibly evolve naturally.) Manipulating their main brain, cutting off their outer brain, and replacing that brain with a translation orb can give the them the appearance of seemingly being cattle-like, happy servants.

    Music 
  • The Eiffel 65 song "Another Race": It's another race / From outer Space / We can't communicate, with their one-way brains / No matter how you try, you just can't understand them.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Beholders have two brains. For some reason they process their data through the emotional part before transferring it to the logical part. Which means, if something is against a beholder's beliefs (which, through genetic memory always amount to Always Chaotic Evil racist monster) it won't ever get far enough to apply to its logic.
    • In the Ravenloft setting, reading the far-too-alien mind of an aberration will force humanoid characters to make a Madness check.
    • The Daelkyr in Eberron are so alien in their way of thinking that in 4th edition any psychic attack against them deals damage to the attacker.
  • As noted by Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!), the Tau of Warhammer 40K will actually fall back from a contested objective if diplomatic means have failed and taking it would take too great an expenditure of men and material, completely anathema to Imperial commanders, who would rather die where they stand than retreatnote . The Eldar, being prescient also often fall back and use such tactics against their more brutal enemies.
    • Orks have a single strategy: gather up all the boyz you can, find a planet with lots of enemies, and run towards them with as much dakka as you have (it won't be enough though) yelling WAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH! This rush to throw themselves into melee is alien to all but the most enthusiastic of Khorne's berserkers.

    Video Games 
  • EV Nova's Krypt believes itself to be the only intelligent creature in the universe.

    Web Original 
  • In Orion's Arm almost nothing else thinks like baseline humans. The Tol'ul'h for instance managed to combine politics and opera into a performance art called "polmusic". Within the Terragen sphere "Singularities" are defined as the threshold at which an intelligence becomes so smart that anything below that line cannot possibly comprehend their thought processes (and there are entities as high as S6).

    Real Life 
  • The reason octopus intelligence is a source of excitement in the scientific community is how far removed (from an evolutionary stand point) from relatively well understood other intelligent animals (who have a tendency to be social). The evolutionary pressures that created the octopuses' intelligence is believed far different than the evolutionary pressure that gave us ours. It's almost like having a sentient alien, so this is probably one of the closest to real life examples in terms of creatures that are intelligent on a level that at least approaches sentience for quite some time. Or the scientific community is only excited about the biology at work behind its brain (for the same reason), or both.

Mind HiveFantastic Sapient Species TropesCaptured Super Entity
Big Five Personality TraitsPsychology TropesBlack and White Insanity
Bizarre Alien SexesAlien TropesBlue and Orange Morality
Bizarre Alien LocomotionSnowclonesBizarre Alien Reproduction
Bizarre Alien LocomotionSpeculative Fiction TropesBizarre Alien Reproduction

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