Existing literature on information sharing in contests has established that sharing contest-specific information influences contestant behaviors, and thereby, the outcomes of a contest. However, in the context of engineering design contests, there is a gap in knowledge about how contest-specific information such as competitors’ historical performance influences designers’ actions and the resulting design outcomes. To address this gap, the objective of this study is to quantify the influence of information about competitors’ past performance on designers’ belief about the outcomes of a contest, which influences their design decisions, and the resulting design outcomes. We focus on a single-stage design competition where an objective figure of merit is available to the contestants for assessing the performance of their design. Our approach includes (i) developing a behavioral model of sequential decision making that accounts for information about competitors’ historical performance and (ii) using the model in conjunction with a human-subject experiment where participants make design decisions given controlled strong or weak performance records of past competitors. Our results indicate that participants spend greater efforts when they know that the contest history reflects that past competitors had a strong performance record than when it reflects a weak performance record. Moreover, we quantify cognitive underpinnings of such informational influence via our model parameters. Based on the parametric inferences about participants’ cognition, we suggest that contest designers are better off not providing historical performance records if past contest outcomes do not match their expectations setup for a given design contest.