Looking for Models of Alien Psyches at Home
Fortunately, there’s quite a bit that we can say. It takes a little digging in our own evolutionary history as well as an examination of different human cultures and, in so far as it is possible, the cultures and social structures of other intelligent species we cohabitate with here on Earth.
NOTE: By “other intelligent species” I mean our cousins the apes and higher order aquatic mammals such as dolphins.
[This was written in 2015. Since then, cognitive capacities of virtually all mammals as well as many genii of avians has been demonstrated to be much higher than previously thought. Cephalopods, in particular are demonstrating breathtaking levels of intelligence. All this, of course, widens the pool of animals from which differing cognitive models for alien species can be derived.]
From an examination of other cultures we know that there is no necessary structure for language, for custom, for dress, for commerce, for law among the various examples that exist and have existed throughout recorded history.
Fair enough. When describing different species with regards to their cultures we can free-form invent without the need to specify how these customs tie into the psyches of the races in question. These cultures, for the most part, will serve more as setting than his character.