You explain in comments that you want to stay away from the religious perspective and focus on the social aspect
But, as The Bard once intoned... "A rose by any other name..."
The short version of the answer:
Humanity has been trying to determine a way to objectively prove the existence of one or more higher life forms (HLFs) from the advent of time. Some call the HLFs "gods." Others call them "ancient aliens." Semantics. We haven't figured out how to prove the existence or motivations of HLFs in tens of thousands of years.
The Long Version:
Please keep in mind that we field questions about religion on a regular basis. So, let's start with an observation from the Good Book (Luke 6:43-45, KJV).
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
In other words, a lower life form (LLF) can detect the presence and intent of an HLF by the consequences of said life form's actions. But that's the hard part. What actions? What results?
Whether you consider the HLF to be a god or a technologically advanced alien1 doesn't matter. You, the LLF, are stuck with three things.
The intentionally observable actions of the higher life form (HLF). For example, if your HLF pushes the water aside to allow a group of people to cross a sea on dry ground, that's an intentionally observable action that helps you, the LLF, to detect and understand the HLF. One could, perhaps, conclude that the HLF was benevolent and favored you.
The unintentionally observable actions are more problematic because it's a challenge to objectively identify them. The LLF starts to cross a street and suddenly feels the need to stop. The result is an avoided collision that might have taken the LLF's life. Was that HLF influence, or did the LLF's brain put a lot of little pieces together fast enough to cause a life-preserving reaction? You'll find people on both sides of the discussion.
You will always perceive your world through a very complex lens. That lens injects your attitudes, education, beliefs, etc. onto the interpretation of what you experience. Said another way, if you were one of those that experienced walking though the dry ocean bed, you might conclude that that the HLF is protecting you from your enemies. In the longer view, on your world perhaps the HLF did that to benefit your enemies, and not you. Without an explanation of "the big picture," it's really, really, really, really, really hard to objectively determine whether or not the actions were one thing or another.2
Here's the rub — without some way to "scientifically" (aka "objectivly") prove the existence and motives of an HLF, all that's left is interpretation. That's religion. Even when the HLF is kind enough to leave evidence (intentionally observed actions, speaking through intermediaries, etc.), because the HLF isn't there 24/7/365 to be touched, photographed, talked to, etc., there will always be doubt about what any individual believes to know or understand.
So, what can you do?
In your world, you need to determine what the intentionally and unintentionally observable actions are first. Once those are identified, you can begin working out how your LLFs can interpret them to detect the existence of and motivations of the HLFs. In a fully fleshed-out world, that would mean that the culture, education, and religion/philosophy of an individual LLF will influence how that LLF can perceive and interpret the "fruit of the tree" or actions of the HLF.
But I'd start by identifying the actions. Because human experience is that working from the LLF's "blind" perspective is very difficult.
1 Clarke's third law states that a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. That's really important to understand. The name we give the higher being is simply semantics and won't change the methods for detection and/or understanding.
2 If you don't believe this, talk to a teenager about their high school experience. All the alliances, betrayals, etc. You'll soon discover that deciding who's your friend, your enemy, and what their motives are is hard between two LLFs, much less an LLF and an HLF.