Background: Interpersonal violent behavior is often induced by extreme emotional states but the effects of emotional stimuli on this behavior remain poorly understood. Aim: We compared the effects of emotional stimuli on behavior in individuals with a history of impulsive or instrumental violence to test for either general problems in processing of emotional stimuli or problems in disengagement from this type of information. Methods: Behavioral and electrophysiological data were collected using emotional stimuli preceding a Posner Cuing Task. Results: Impulsive violent individuals showed more attentional resource allocation to angry faces whereas instrumental violent individuals attended less to sad faces. Electrophysiological measures showed there were differences in attentional allocation leading to differences when disengaging from invalid emotional cues, rather than a pattern indicating differences in early processing in extrastriate cortex. Conclusions: Different emotion–attention problems are seen in impulsive and instrumental violent offenders due to abnormalities in disengaging attention from specific types of emotional content.