I assume you want to know the performance difference between the following:
WHERE foo IN ('a', 'b', 'c')
WHERE foo = 'a' OR foo = 'b' OR foo = 'c'
According to the official manual if the values are constant IN sorts the list and then uses a binary search.
I would imagine that OR evaluates them one by one in no particular order. So IN is faster in some circumstances.
The best way to know is to profile both on your database with your specific data to see which is faster.
I tried both on a MySQL with 1000000 rows. When the column is indexed there is no discernable difference in performance - both are nearly instant. When the column is not indexed I got these results:
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM t_inner WHERE val IN (1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000);
1 row fetched in 0.0032 (1.2679 seconds)
SELECT COUNT(*) FROM t_inner WHERE val = 1000 OR val = 2000 OR val = 3000 OR val = 4000 OR val = 5000 OR val = 6000 OR val = 7000 OR val = 8000 OR val = 9000;
1 row fetched in 0.0026 (1.7385 seconds)
So, in this case, the method using OR is about 30% slower. Adding more terms makes the difference larger. Results may vary on other databases and on other data.