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Bizarre Alien Psychology

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"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 from humans.

This can manifest in a number of ways, such as group consciousness or the capacity to feel emotion in a way that is abnormal for humans. 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.

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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Heterogenia Linguistico: Hakaba eventually realizes that the monsters seem to have no concept of superstition, with even Half-Human Hybrids like Susuki not being able to grasp the idea of a fictional story, nor do they ascribe reasons as to why things happen or see them on a large scale, only the immediate here and now. He becomes depressed when he comes to the realization that this also means that they won't even know that they are under threat from human encroachment until it gets to the point where they're already effectively extinct.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica's race of Incubators seem to operate as 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In Krypton No More, Kryptonian therapists have very weird ideas about proper ways to deal with psychological trauma. Since Superman is having a breakdown because he is frightened of losing Earth as he lost Krypton, the Kandorians (people of the Bottle City of Kandor who survived Krypton's destruction) convince Supergirl to make him believe he is from Earth and his Kryptonians origins are a delusion he came up with.
    Supergirl: Kandorian psychologists — unlike Earth psychologists — feel than an emotional problem should be removed, rather than solved!
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In the Green Lantern Annual #5 story "The Value of I", the Zilliphi reject the concept of individuality. They place great emphasis on the will of the majority, referred to as the Many, to the point that every important decision is put to a vote, even in the direst of circumstances. Taa presents the Conference House of Metro Nine with a Green Lantern Ring which would give the wearer the power to defeat the Barooki who are pillaging their city. Rather than making use of the ring, they decide to have a referendum. The Zilliphi reject using the ring as they fear that it would make the person who wore it stand out from the Many, meaning that they would no longer all be equal. Taa is told by the Conference House to dispose of the ring but he instead puts it on and uses its immense power to defeat the Barooki. He then gives a speech to the cheering crowd that the Many need to participate in their society as individuals if they are to survive and advance. However, his speech is misinterpreted and the Many instead decide to make Taa their king. They begin to come to Taa so that he can make all of their decisions for them. For instance, one couple, Sao and Saa, want him to decide on the hue that they should paint their quarters.
  • Star Trek: Untold Voyages: In "Silent Cries", the Paridesians possess an almost religious devotion to etiquette and protocol and regard any breach thereof, no matter how minor, as a major insult.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Inverted in Dæmorphing. The humans (whose souls take the form of daemons) find it weird at first that aliens' consciousnesses aren't split between two bodies.
  • This is a recurring theme in Intelligence Factor. Mr. Mime are capable of understanding human languages, but don't use them; Miranda speculates that they're playing an elaborate joke on Pokérinian society. Haunter and Gengar love to scare people, but nobody knows why.
  • The Unlikely Ally takes the original "alienness" of Kyubey and flips it on its head with Key. In essence, one of Kyubey's bodies manages to become its own sapient being, and he considers Kyubey to be the 'wrong' one while being more sympathetic to the main characters.


  • Alliance/Union:
    • The Chanur Novels are Xenofiction told from the perspective of a group of vaguely lion-like aliens who pick up a human stowaway. The series features no less than eight distinct species, all of whom are various shades of Blue-and-Orange Morality or Starfish Aliens to each other. The hani, mahendo'sat, and newly discovered humans are just unpredictable enough to each other to be dangerous, the stsho are constitutionally incapable of violence, the kif have nothing their fellow oxygen-breathers would recognize as loyalty or morality, the t'ca have five brains and speak in matrices, the knnn can barely communicate even through t'ca translators, and the jury's still out on whether the chi are even sentient (good luck trying to communicate the concept of traffic laws to those last two).
    • The Faded Sun introduces the Regul, who have perfect recall and find the idea of imagining a future that doesn't look like the past practically incomprehensible. Lying is seen as deliberately introducing a false and unforgettable past into someone's memory and is therefore a nigh-unbreakable taboo.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Yeerks are originally treated as Always Chaotic Evil, and when Jake sees inside one's head, he detects alien emotions and speculates that they don't experience love. Characterization Marches On, though, and in later books, Yeerks become more sympathetic and more human. (Incidentally, we see a Yeerk demonstrate love only two books later.) However, one thing that Jake notices — that unlike humans, Yeerks won't keep fighting if they think that they'll lose — is actually a major plot point.
    • The Leerans have Psychic Powers more active than other species; they instantly know all your secrets just by your being around them, and as a result, seem cheerfully indifferent to the concept of personal privacy.
    • The Helmacrons are basically an entire species of The Napoleon, make ranting threats to anyone (including each other), and do bizarre things like ritualistically execute their leaders, since they obviously can't make any mistakes if they're dead. This seems partially related to them having a weird sort of Mind Hive — kill a Helmacron and their mind somehow transfers to another, creating a whole species of nutcases.
    • The Skrit Na are the species which we call The Greys, and yes, they fly around abducting humans (and others) for pointless medical experiments or as exhibits in their People Zoos. Why? None of the other species know, and Elfangor believes that they don't really know either.
    • Some of the Yeerk-viewpoint books show that humans are the weird ones to the Yeerks, particularly the left brain-right brain thing, or the concept of doubt.
      This brain contained its own traitor!
  • Beware of Chicken: As a sapient sword-turned-plow, Su Ne considers the world entirely through the paradigm of cutting things. It has no objection to being used to cut living flesh as long as the cuts are clean and precise, but starts to go through a mental breakdown when its wielder's qi causes it to rip and shred rather than cleanly cutting.
  • One of the twists in 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, music or literature... which are evolutionary dead-ends that make humans vulnerable to the creatures out there, who interpret any broadcasts including so much "nonsense" information (like anything related to philosophy, ethics, diplomacy, thought or even anything involving such concepts as "I" or "you") as essentially a cyberattack intended to clutter their own sensors and cause them to waste processing time and resources on gibberish. While it's difficult to know anything for sure (since the aliens' apparent "conversations" with them are pure Chinese-room problem-solving with no actual mind behind them), there is the distinct possibility that humanity has been assessed to have launched an attack against an infinitely more advanced alien species simply by trying to talk to them, and naturally it's impossible to convince them otherwise if any other form of communication is going to be treated as another attack.
  • The villains of one of the Bolo books are a bunch of reptilian matriarchal Blood Knight aliens who are all about killing anything, have "Kill and Eat!" as a Battle Cry, and will not accept any surrender... especially because they apparently 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.
  • Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer features a species of aliens unable to do any math aside from the most simple arithmetic, but who have no difficulty answering difficult moral questions that baffle others.
  • "C-Chute": Stuart reminds the other humans that Kloros aren't just physically different, they are also psychologically different. The Kloros will assume that any group is a social union deeper than family bonds, even a group that just happens to share a ride on a transport.
  • The uplifted spiders of Children of Time (2015) are fairly close to a human psyche, albeit with a more prominent tendency for threat displays (leg-measuring) when they get into an argument, and the female instinct to eat their mates post-coitus, but the uplifted octopuses of the sequel are very different from human and spider alike. Real-world octopuses have a central mass of neurons in the head, and a smaller mass of neurons in each arm; this book extrapolates such that its octopus characters have a "Crown" (the head-brain, handling emotions, desires, social relations, and communication via skin-pigmentation) and a "Reach" (the collective arm-brains, handling logic, math, problem-solving, and general practical skills, and can communicate with another octopus' Reach via grappling and wrestling). An octopus is only conscious of its Crown; it conceives a desire, belief, moral principle, etc. and the Reach carries it out as a subconscious quasi-independent process. Where it gets especially weird is in political debates: one example sees two octopuses start off flashing opposing skin colours as their Crowns disagree, then they begin to grapple; the Reach of one octopus out-argues the Reach of the other, and the out-argued octopus suddenly finds itself in whole-hearted agreement with his former opponent despite having no conscious understanding of why he changed his mind.
  • Shows up in several places in the works of The Cosmere.
    • The koloss of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy have only two emotions: boredom and rage. They spend all their time sitting on the ground doing nothing, until they decide to kill someone nearby for a completely random reason. "His food was better than mine" is a perfectly acceptable excuse for murder in their eyes. Furthermore, after they've finished the fight and calmly explained their reasoning, they go back to sitting around like nothing happened.
    • The Parshendi of The Stormlight Archive perceive emotions as a series of rhythms to which they can attune their thoughts and speech. They naturally attune the rhythm that matches their emotion at the moment, but can deliberately attune a different rhythm instead.
    • The Shards of Adonalsium are sixteen concepts endowed with virtually endless power, each of which binds itself to a human mind, then warps that mind into its image. Ati, bearer of the Shard Ruin, comes to see all reality as a process of destruction, of building up only that you might later knock down.
  • Invoked in Diaspora: The uploaded and AI citizens of the Polis have complete control over the coding of their own minds, which they use for various recreational and work purposes. People loan out their sense of aesthetics for art exhibits, rewire their brains for space travel so they can spend millennia happily watching the stars, adapt to five-dimensional virtual environments, and much more. For really alien species, they create "bridger" copies with as much of the aliens' mindset as they can add to themselves and stay intelligible. One species of Starfish Aliens requires a telephone game of five Bridgers to engage.
  • The Draco Tavern:
    • 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.
    • Rick Schumann, the bartender, 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.
  • 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.
  • Ender's Game:
    • This is basically the entire overarching premise of the series. At its heart, it deals with the question of whether or not an alien culture thinks and acts so utterly different from humans that there could never be any communication or understanding between them. In such a case it puts forth that total annihilation is the only workable approach to protect humanity. To this end, Orson Scott Card created the Hierarchy of Foreigness.
    • The Formics are a particular example. They are Insectoid Aliens that live in a Hive Caste System. Only Formic queens are sapient; the rest are mindless drones. As a consequence, Formic queens are protected at all costs, but the death of a million drones is a statistic. Due to Poor Communication Kills, they initially thought this was also true of humanity. When they realized during the second invasion that all humans were equally intelligent, the queen leading the invasion was so horrified that she was Driven to Suicide: she deliberately left her flagship unprotected to give her enemy an opening, which Mazer Rackham exploited.
  • Footfall focuses on humanity's war with the Fithp, an intelligent species with much more of a collective herd dynamic than what we know. Whenever two opposing herds fight, it continues until one side is proven to be dominant and the losing side is willingly absorbed into the winner's herd. This means the Fithp have no concept of things like conditional surrender or insurrection, and it makes no sense to them to peacefully negotiate before a display of overwhelming power to establish dominance. This is why they're so confused by humanity not simply surrendering after their opening shots. Inversely, when they're outnumbered, surprised or separated from their herd, a Fi will instinctively surrender by dropping their guns and going belly-up. As herd animals, the Fithp are also perplexed by humanity's ability to endure weeks of prolonged isolation from their own kind, which would drive any of them insane.
  • Foreigner (1994) 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.
  • The possibility of this turns out to be key to the plot of Foundation and Earth: a driving question for Golan Trevize, the main protagonist, is just why his intuition pointed him to Gaia over the Second Foundation's psychohistory. As he realizes at the end, one limitation of psychohistory that hasn't been considered until now is that it only applies to people that think like humans, because human psychology is what the equations were calibrated for (the Mule was able to manipulate the reactions of others outside the bounds of normal statistics, but he himself was still perfectly human in how he thought). This would leave it unable to predict what aliens would do, and while there aren't any in the Milky Way, there are other galaxies out there. However, the last sentence hints that transhuman psychology may be sufficiently alien that it isn't just an extragalactic threat after all...
  • "Homo Sol": The alien humans completely lack the mob psychology of the humans of Sol, making them individually emotional, but not very empathic. They’ve formed detailed mathematics around psychology in order to take advantage of the emotional reactions from humanoid life as they know it. Discovering how we react in groups and proving our mob psychology frightens the political representatives.
  • In Illegal Alien by Robert J. Sawyer, the Tosok race has no sense of privacy in regard to sexual matters, since with them, this usually involves group sex (four males impregnating one female). Their internal anatomy, however, is viewed as sacred and not to be discussed in public except when absolutely necessary. Also, they don't have any concept of "right" in terms of morals, believing that all things are predestined. One character speculates that this is due to the fact that they don't have right and left sides to their anatomy, but three, with one (an arm in the back) being inherently the strongest. They therefore have no concept of crime, although dangerous people are restrained.
  • Imperial Radch:
    • The Starfish Alien Presger are only encountered through their Artificial Human Translators, but appear to have an understanding of individual and collective identity that's completely at odds with humanity's. It rubs off on their Translators: one Translator needs to be reassured as to which translator she is at a given moment.
    • The Geck are aquatic, and as such believe that the water is "good" and the entire universe outside it is some sort of nightmarish hell. The Geck ambassador in Provenance is actually sort of surprised to find out that people seem to be able to thrive there. Additionally, they have strong sibling bonds but no connection with parents or children.
  • The entire premise of Knights of the Forty Islands turns out to be an alien experiment to figure out human psychology. There's much they still don't understand. Some aspects of their own psychology disgust the human teenagers. For example, their "less advanced" members tend to be stuck in one mode of behavior. The elite are able to "modify their behavior" to whatever is necessary for the moment, with no social qualms. The disgust part comes in, when one of the aliens simply submits to the humans and readily agrees to betray its own comrades for its own survival. When the humans point out that it's betraying its own kind, the creature simply reiterates that it has merely adjusted its behavior and doesn't understand the human resistance to that sort of thing.
  • Known Space:
    • Protectors, Kzinti, and other aliens all think differently enough from 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 Outsiders are the go-to In-Universe example given that nobody else can understand their alien motivations/desires. Outsiders make even the Grogs look understandable (which they pretty much are not).
    • 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 understanding 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.
  • Kris Longknife:
    • Downplayed with the Iteeche, who have a tendency to react to grammatical mistakes by speakers of their Starfish Language by attacking the offender with a sword (at least one early human negotiator lost a limb that way). Aside from that, they're actually quite humanlike in thought, despite being amphibians.
    • The Alwans, a race of flightless omnivorous birds, have several populations, but the most prominent, nicknamed "Roosters" by the humans, has no concept of large-scale violence (outside of hunting game): interpersonal violence is extremely rare because the Roosters have evolved to settle disputes by dominance displays, and are greatly disturbed when the Planet Looters refuse to surrender despite the human forces' clear superiority. Neither they nor the more warlike "Ostriches" understand the concept of money in exchange for goods, either: after attempts to introduce coinage quite literally turn into Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, the humans defending them from the Planet Looters resort to "paying" Alwan workers and soldiers by letting them pick consumer goods from a catalog and then telling them how much work they need to do to earn the "gift".
  • The Long Earth has almost as many examples as species:
    • Trolls are a species related to humans. They can step naturally, communicate using variations in tone when singing, and have a sort of collective encyclopedia known as the Long Call which they use to pass information across the Long Earth. They're also incredibly helpful, but can't stand being around large groups of people.
    • Elves are another species related to humans, and also natural steppers. They seem to see the Long Earth as a massive hunting ground, taking joy in hunting and killing anything they come across using stone tools and stepping. They don't fight as a cohesive unit, instead engaging their victims in a series of duels.
    • Kobolds are yet another human relative. They're kleptomaniacal and will trade all sorts to get things they want. They also take incredible offense if you help them when they're trying to help you, to the extent of even trying to kill you.
    • Beagles have explosive population growth, and as a result, even though they're sentient, they never advanced beyond basic metallurgy because every few generations their entire Earth descends into warfare. They rely predominantly on scent, so their buildings are visually bare. Because there's so many of them, they view life as cheap and see an honourable death as much more important. Embassadors are given the honour of a noble death once they've done what they needed to do.
    • First Person Singular is a sentient being made up of symbiotic single-celled bacteria. She travels between worlds devouring the life on them without even being aware that she's doing it. All she wants is to stop being lonely, since she was the only sentient organism on her Earth, as no life evolved beyond being single-celled. She's mentioned as being linked to Josh in a way, as when he was born he was the only human on his Earth.
    • The Next like to think of themselves this way, but they fall into the same problems the humans they're descended from do. While they're hyper-intelligent, they still have human emotions, they still can't agree on positions, and some of them still believe they should be rulers of the known multiverse. However, they are more communal, disagreements rarely lead to physical conflict, and when something needs doing they'll just get along and do it because their intelligence leads them all to the same conclusion: It needs doing, so we might as well get on with it.
  • Inverted in The Mote in God's 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.
  • In The Neanderthal Parallax, the Neanderthals are incapable of religious and mystical beliefs due to them having a different brain structure.
  • None But Man: The Moldaug are an alien species whose moral system is based on Respectable and Not Respectable. Somebody who is Not Respectable is just as likely to surrender without a fight as they are to betray and attack when the victor's back is turned. Earth's government, afraid of triggering a war, has acted in a Not Respectable manner with its attempts at appeasement, nearly compelling the Moldaug to war. In addition, Moldaug society and mentality is based on the function of trios of Moldaug working in sync as a single individual. Their form of the Anti-Christ consists of a "hermit", who cannot function in a trio, and a "madman", who no trio would want.
  • 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.
  • Peter Pan describes Tinker Bell thus:
    Tink was not all bad; or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change. At present she was full of jealousy of Wendy.
  • Robert J. Sawyer:
    • In Illegal Alien, the Tosok race has no sense of privacy in regards to sexual matters, since with them this usually involves group sex (four males impregnating one female). Their internal anatomy, however, is viewed as sacred and not to be discussed in public except when absolutely necessary. Also, they don't have a concept of “right” in terms of morals, believing all things are predestined. One character speculates this is due to the fact they don't have right and left sides to their anatomy, but three, with one (an arm in the back) being inherently strongest. They therefore have no concept of crime, although dangerous people are restrained.
    • In his The Neanderthal Parallax books, the Neanderthals are incapable of religious and mystical beliefs due to having a different brain structure.
    • Calculating God features a species of aliens unable to do any math aside from the most simple arithmetic, but have no difficulty answering difficult moral questions that baffle others.
  • Semiosis: The Plant Alien Stevland's control over his biological processes allows him to do things like partition off aspects of his consciousness and literally grow a sense of humour.
  • The Corviki in The Ship Who Sang are relatable to a degree, but when it actually comes to talking to these methane/ammonia-breathing Starfish Aliens they turn out to be quite a bit stranger than previously indicated. Worse, The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body — humans inhabiting Corviki envelopes start to think in the same ways. They do still love Romeo and Juliet, but in their own context.
    The Corviki audience understood the conflict of the two warring energy-groups, of the desire of the two new, but not shallow, entities to combine into a new force group, of the energy-stoking of herself as the Nurse, of the brilliant light of beta particles exchanged by the two new entities, swearing neutron coalitions and, finally, forced to expend the vital energy of their cores to bring the warring groups to the realization that co-existence was possible on their energy level.
  • Tralfamadorians in Slaughterhouse-Five can see in four dimensions and thus have a fatalistic worldview due to their knowledge of all time and space.
  • The Space Trilogy:
    • Discussed by the seorni of Malacandra in Out of the Silent Planet. They feel that the fact that Earth has only one sentient race (Malacandra has three) must profoundly narrow our perception of the universe.
      "Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood, for you cannot compare it with thought that floats on a different blood."
    • Venus's Queen in Perelandra is intelligent and totally innocent in a strange way. She sleeps like it's an active power of hers while remaining totally unable to recognize that the corpse-like Un-man is evil, because evil is so foreign to her that she has no vocabulary for it. Part of the oddness of her thinking is due to the psychic link she has with Maleldil the Young, who answers her every question as soon as she starts wondering about it.
  • 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 from 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.
  • Strata:
    • While most aliens seem to have essentially human psychologies with added quirks — kungs are paranoiacs who will fight without regard for their own safety, shands are pacifist intellectuals who think nothing of eating their own kind — the protagonist, Kin, reflects that everybody (including humans) projects their own psychology onto other species, and understanding another species beyond a superficial level may be impossible.
    • The Ehfts are a more extreme example, and they weird out everybody else. However, a Running Gag shows one habit common to every species, even Ehfts — when they ask for Kin's autograph on a copy of her book, they'll say it's for (the closest equivalent of) their nephew.
  • "A !Tangled Web (1981)": The !tang think generally similarly to humans, but there are a lot of odd quirks, even beyond Apologizes a Lot. A significant argument is whether it is in fact possible to sell land at all, because it is unclear if it is something that can be given value.
  • Wayfarers: Sidra is a shipwide AI who recently transferred to a body kit (i.e. an android) and struggles immensely with things like having only one set of sensors, no access to the internet, and a limited memory. She also has an existential crisis over the fact that her programmed purpose is gone. In the end, she combines the body kit with a number of remote robots, another AI, and a series of memory banks to create her ideal form.

    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 tie-in 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.
  • 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 them the appearance of seemingly being cattle-like, happy servants.
    • The Daleks are xenophobic and believe themselves to be the Ultimate Lifeform. Anything else must be exterminated or enslaved to serve their purposes. The one exception is their creator Davros, who they revere with religious fervor except when they overcome their subservience to him and enslave him. Even other Daleks that they fear are slightly different are considered un-Dalek, and they have near-constant civil wars as any new idea creates a schism. When one group of "pure" Daleks decided that the human-born Daleks weren't inferior to the originals, being that they are identical in all but origin, another group declared war (which included some human-born Daleks who saw their inferiority as a given).
  • Farscape has quite a few examples, but the Plovakians from "The Ugly Truth" are a solid case. As their entire species has Photographic Memory, they cannot accept the idea of subjective memory. Thus, when the crew of the Moya have differing accounts of what went down before Talyn blew up one of their ships, they decide that everyone must be lying and trying to cover each other's asses, and thus are all equally fit for the death penalty.
  • Star Trek:
    • 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. In both TNG and Star Trek: Voyager, this mindset is shown when individual drones flat out ignore the heroes walking around in their presence until they became a problem. The Borg, as 7 of 9 explains, think about the survival of the collective. Units are expendable because the data can still be preserved. Humans think on an individual scale, where the preservation of data must mean the preservation of the individual and thus fight to minimize casualties.
    • 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.
  • Taken: In the final episode "Taken", John confirms what Mary Crawford and Dr. Chet Wakeman had suspected about the aliens for some time: that they have no emotions and no concept of morality due to the manner in which they had evolved over the course of millions of years.

  • 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.

  • Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon/Operation Luna, the Time Travellers cannot kill any living creature.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost likes to put fae and alien tropes in a blender and set it to "Pulse", and nowhere is this more apparent than in the mindset of the True Fae. They cannot understand humanity. At all. They can pretend to, but their emotions and attachments are fleeting, to the point that one of them can murder a human servant because they view a moment's hesitation as gross disloyalty, then forget all about it a few minutes later. Trying to understand humanity actually forces True Fae to forget all about their fairy homeland, lose most of their powers, and become an amnesiac humanoid who thinks that one particular person or type of person is just the niftiest — which is a problem, because their object of fascination could be anything from a lonely romantic type to a Serial Killer.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In some editions, Beholders have two minds. 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 with an extremely inflated ego) it won't ever get far enough to apply to its logic. They also have an intense hatred of things that are different from themselves, including beholders with different numbers of eye stalks, skin color, magical abilities, or levels of xenophobia. They aren't as big of a threat to other races as they could be because they hate fellow beholders who are slightly different than themselves more than other races and so spend far more time warring with each other. They reproduce by regurgitating and biting off their reproductive sac, sterilizing themselves in the process, and then only keep the children that look the most like themselves while devouring the rest.
    • 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.
    • Neogi struggle to conceive of any relationship between two beings other than master and slave.
    • Grells sort anything that isn't a grell into the categories of food, not food, and threats.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • As noted by Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) in the novel For the Emperor, the Tau 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 retreat. (Or at least, this is the case with the more zealous and/or stupid Guard generals. Smarter commanders do exist, including Cain's own superior Zyvan, they're just not as prominent.) As the Tau see it, if the Imperials want a world bad enough to waste thousands of lives for it, they can have it. The Tau will just go do something else and wait until the humans get complacent or focus on other things, and then take the planet back. The Tau also see nothing wrong with eradicating the completely defenseless should they refuse to join the Tau Empire — the only true alliance is the Empire itself and all other allegiances are untrustworthy, and they won't take even the most remote chance of betrayal even from those who can't reasonably fight back. After all, if someone offers to ally with you but they won't enter the hegemony, how sincere could they possibly be?
    • 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 "WAAAAGGGHHH!". This rush to throw themselves into melee is alien to all but the most enthusiastic of Khorne's berserkers. This is because to them, fighting is all there is. Even their occasional retreats are justified in that they get to fight again tomorrow, so it's more fighting overall. They practically treat ambushes as gifts, and think the humans built those giant fortresses because they're asking for someone to attack them already. Large and in Charge is biologically enforced, too. Their other rationalizations fill a sizeable section of Insane Troll Logic's page. A lot of this is because when "fear of death" was being handed out by the Nightbringer, the Orks somehow missed out. Orks believing colors give physical properties including to things they didn't make (most famously, Red Ones Go Faster) is actually true thanks to the way their psychic powers work. They also believe in the value of keeping a good enemy alive so they can fight him again. Thus, Commissar Yarrick (favored archenemy of warboss Ghazkull) might actually be kept alive by the orks' belief in his invincibility.
    • The Craftworld Eldar have serious obsessive tendencies, and their culture is structured to use this constructively. The same Eldar can come across as very different people depending on what Path he's on, because each Path draws from a different part of the psyche, and staying too long in one Path is risky because there's a chance they'll walk too far down the Path and be psychologically unable to leave it.
    • According to the psykers who made contact with the Tyranid Hive Mind (and survived), it consists mostly of hunger.
    • It's worth noting that in general, the most human aliens in the setting are those Necrons, whose minds remain mostly intact after going into robot bodies; some of them are indistinguishable from semi-realistic comic book villains or Blackadder supporting characters.

  • The Bohrok swarms in BIONICLE are a Hive Mind lead by the dinosaur-like Bahrag hive queens via organic mask-like creatures called Krana that that are telepathically linked to the Bahrag, meaning individual Bohrok bodies and their Krana "brains" are expendable. They exist solely to destroy everything on the Mata Nui island and can't fathom why anyone would interfere with this higher purpose given to them by the actual Mata Nui. They come into conflict with the Toa heroes and Matoran islanders who think the Bahrag and Bohrok are evil and want to kill them — Bohrok are ruthless and terrifying but they avoid harming sentient beings unless they hinder them. The Bahrag even consider the Toa to be the Bohrok's brothers. Only long after the swarm's defeat do the Toa learn the Bahrag and Bohrok were Mata Nui's servants all along, they simply had a one-track mind that's incompatible with concepts like heroism or individuality. From the Bahrag's point of view, the Toa and Matoran were the bad guys for trying to save the island. Once the Toa realize this, they reluctantly unleash the Bahrag to let them finish their task (the Matoran had moved off the island by than anyway so there was no one in the way). Only one type of Bohrok, the six elite Bohrok-Kal and the Krana-Kal they carried were capable of individual thought and speech, which eventually lead them down a path of evil ambition.

    Video Games 
  • Destiny:
    • Love and hate are the same emotion to the Hive. Their three highest leaders, all siblings, express their love and respect by killing each other. Repeatedly. This is in part due to their belief that Might Makes Right: learning from each death, they're helping each other stay sharp and grow stronger.
    • The Vex, a semi-biological computer network, do not perform semiosis. When they communicate with each other, they pass around simulations of what they're talking about, mimicking the phenomena directly rather than encoding it in language. As a result, they don't recognize any difference between simulation and reality; all they understand is that the two must be made to match. Given that the Vex are also effectively automata without consciousness or subjectivity — only capable of interacting with the world by self-replicating and trying to convert everything into more Vex — this makes them an unrelenting foe, impossible to negotiate or communicate with. Not that communicating with them is a good idea in the first place, as Vex thoughts are as infectious as the rest of them.
  • Escape Velocity Nova's Krypt believes itself to be the only intelligent creature in the universe.
  • The geth in Mass Effect are an artificial Hive Mind species of Artificial Intelligences that get progressively smarter the more of them are located in close proximity, since they're able to share data processing with each other. They also think and communicate at the speed of light. Your geth teammate Legion further explains in Mass Effect 2 that being computers, they literally think in math: the "heretics" joined up with the Reapers because an equation that should have returned one number, returned a number a tiny fraction different. Legion also notes during its Loyalty Mission that making the decision on what to do with the heretic geth (erase them or alter their programming, in effect killing or brainwashing them) based on what Shepard would consider moral for organic life could be considered somewhat insulting, because geth aren't organics.
  • WarioWare: Orbulon's thought process appear to be decidedly abnormal.

  • In El Goonish Shive, Uryuoms and hybrids that have Uryuom ancestry are predisposed to be polyamorous as a natural consequence of their reproductive biology in which 3 or more biological parents are the norm. Given that Uryuom biology features external fertilization involving raw DNA, Uryuom descended individuals are also more likely to be asexual. Finally, as a One-Gender Race of shapeshifters, Uryuoms have no set gender from birth and even if they pick one, it's often not fixed making them inherently agender and often genderfluid.
  • Homestuck has several alien races with differences in psychology.
    • The trolls are mostly human, except they are almost always bisexual and they recognize four different kinds of romance, two of which are based on hatred instead of love.
    • Probably the weirdest race are the cherubs, who are born with two personalities, one good and one evil, which they need to fight and argue with in order to emotionally mature, and upon becoming an adult one personality becomes predominant. They also spend most of their lives entirely alone and only meet with each other for the purpose of mating, and they only mate with cherubs of opposite alignment. They have trouble understand why humans wouldn't appreciate being given an artifact that solves all of their interpersonal conflicts by forcing them to be happy as a present.
    • Leprechauns are implied to be an entirely homosexual race and experience nine different kinds of romantic emotions, one of which love while the other eight are completely alien, and can experience more than one of them at once for a partner.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons:
    • Angels have an utterly bizarre psychology that even other residents of Throne don't seem to really understand. All are bound by the Old Law, which is a set of unexplained rules chiseled into their being, and are physically incapable of outright breaking it (evil angels do some heavy Loophole Abuse to get around the Law). They see fighting evil and staring into the void as equally noble tasks. Rank is determined by length of their previous incarnation, regardless of how many preceded it. The Prime Angels have done nothing but maintain a shield around Throne for several millennia, but they outrank all other angels simply because they've never had to reincarnate. That being said, some angels play with this trope, downplay it, or even outright avert it. Some angels display more human psychology or value systems, most notably deuteragonist/tritagonist 82 White Chain (whose struggle with both the system of Throne and her identity form the basis of her character arc). While much less human than 82 White Chain, 10 Vigilant Gaze Purges the Horizon expresses intense support for White Chain and encourages her more human side. Antagonist 6 Juggernaut Star is implied to be heavily repressing her identity out of sheer hatred for Zoss and the constant spinning of the Wheel.
    • Servants and Devils also have their psychological quirks — Servant races are forged for one specific purpose and devils are desire incarnate, bound by many names they slowly learn to slough away, becoming more powerful and changing personality as they do so.
  • Runaway to the Stars: The different aliens don't tend to think like humans, each in their own ways.
    • Bug Ferrets have something like race-wide ADHD, and absolutely no sense of personal space. Everything from beds to bathrooms are communal on the Bug Ferret homeworld. Soap operas are overstimulating nightmares (normally consisting of things like producer commentary, character asides, and audience reactions all at the same time). A Bug Ferret deprived of contact with fellow bug ferrets can Go Mad from the Isolation within just over a day.
    • On a milder note, centaurs process visual information very differently from humans- for example, all centaurs are compelled to track small moving objects. It's also stated that matriarchs will instinctively become violently hostile towards any babies that aren't their own. Something that becomes more pronounced in ones who reproduce more frequently.
    • The avians only have an interest in sex and romance during their species mating season in the spring. This can cause friction with individuals who start relationships with humans as they'd only be romantically interested in their partner for part of the year.

    Web Original 
  • The Harmsters from Hamster's Paradise are a violent, murderous race of sapient bipedal carnivorous hamster-descendants who are psychologically geared toward cruelty and violence. Their society exists solely due to their pragmatic willingness for cooperation, but they are callous and sadistic even to members of their own species. This is due to their descent from a predator species that eats their prey alive: to them, the smell of blood and the agonized cries of their prey mean food and thus survival which is why they respond to murder and torture with gleeful excitement. Indeed, they revel so much in war and bloodshed that the idea of kindness, altruism and affectionate bonds is downright alien and abhorrent to them.
  • 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), and even at the baseline sophont level you have to factor in the radically different mindsets of the various human descendants, uplifts, vecsnote  and AIs, many of whom think and behave nothing like modern humans.
  • Serina: The Gravediggers are a sophontic species of solitary badger-like birds which makes them think quite differently from humans or Serina's other sapient races. Being naturally solitary, they don't need interaction with others of their kind for emotional fulfillment like we do, in fact they'll become aggressively territorial to any other Gravedigger they see outside of mating or child-rearing. They also don't suffer from boredom when performing long menial tasks such as digging the pit traps they use for hunting and develop daily routines that they perform to a near-ritualistic degree. However, they do have a sense of creativity and they create art in their free time once they have several good traps, the most common is using soil pigment and their claws to carve pictures into the trees on their territorial borders. This becomes a way for them to communicate with their neighbors without physically meeting them and they may even feel sorrow if something were to happen to a Gravedigger that they've drawing with for years, but they'll still attack each other if they were to ever personally meet.

    Western Animation 
  • Irken society in Invader Zim is a hierarchy based solely around height, where shorter individuals are looked down on (literally) and assigned menial labor, while taller ones are greatly respected and admired. The leaders of The Empire are even called the Almighty Tallest. At one point, when Zim is describing humanity to them, the Tallest are baffled by the idea that anything tall, let alone as tall as them, could somehow also be dumb.

    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) they are. The evolutionary pressures that created the octopuses' intelligence are believed to be far different from the evolutionary pressure that gave us ours. It's almost like having a sapient 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 sapience for quite some time. Or the scientific community is only excited about the biology at work behind its brain (for the same reasons), or both.