ediff-auto-refine is a variable defined in `ediff-diff.el'.
Its value is

  • Automatically becomes permanently buffer-local when set.

If `on', Ediff auto-highlights fine diffs for the current diff region.
If `off', auto-highlighting is not used. If `nix', no fine diffs are shown
at all, unless the user force-refines the region by hitting `*'.

This variable can be set either in .emacs or toggled interactively.
Use `setq-default' if setting it in .emacs