Many modem visual recognition algorithms incorporate a step of spatial 'pooling', where the outputs of several nearby feature detectors are combined into a local or global 'bag of features', in a way that preserves task-related information while removing irrelevant details. Pooling is used to achieve invariance to image transformations, more compact representations, and better robustness to noise and clutter. Several papers have shown that the details of the pooling operation can greatly influence the performance, but studies have so far been purely empirical. In this paper, we show that the reasons underlying the performance of various pooling methods are obscured by several confounding factors, such as the link between the sample cardinality in a spatial pool and the resolution at which low-level features have been extracted. We provide a detailed theoretical analysis of max pooling and average pooling, and give extensive empirical comparisons for object recognition tasks.